Monday, December 29, 2008

We went shopping recently, to one of the largest convenient stores in Belgium. At several places in the shop they have these TV's playing commercials of their own stuff. Normally i don't pay much attention to it, but this one caught my eye. It was about their on-line ordering system, and they were demoing how to buy stuff from them from the internet. The above picture is a close up from the browser used during the presentation. Statcounter i can understand, but the bittorrent and music finder links are a bit weird, don't you think?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On a normal PC, the latest Ubuntu isn't that much of a big improvement, however if you're an eee-pc owner it is a great upgrade, more on that possibly in a later post.

I did a clean install, wiped my previous xubuntu installation and started from scratch. The problem ofcourse was that my previous install was already a while ago and i didn't quite remember exactly what i did to get it booting from an USB disk. The new USB install creator doesn't work for USB disks, i guess it only works for USB sticks, which is silly. Luckily my bash history is long enough and i got it right after a few tries.

The procedure is as followed (i used xubuntu, but this method works for all ubuntu versions);

  • First create a FAT16 partition on your USB disk, important to remember is the filesystem size limit is 2GB, so do not create anything bigger then this, i simply took 900MB (using gparted).
  • Run syslinux on the newly created partition. 'syslinux -s /dev/sd'
  • Run fdisk on the drive and set the FAT16 partition to bootable. 'fdisk /dec/sd'
  • Mount the ubuntu iso image. 'mount -o loop xubuntu-8.10-desktop-i386.iso /mnt'
  • Copy the isolinux content to your USB disk. 'cp -a /mnt/isolinux /media/disk'
  • Rename the isolinux config file to syslinux. 'cd /media/disk/isolinux && mv isolinux.cfg syslinux.cfg'
  • Get the HD disk install kernel from Ubuntu at - - change the 'intrepid' depending on what Ubuntu version you want to install. You need to download both vmlinuz and initrd.gz files.
  • Create an install directory on your USB disk and copy the downloaded files into it. 'mkdir /media/disk/install && cp ~/downloads/vmlinuz ~/downloads/initrd.gz /media/disk/install'
  • Now, just copy the iso file onto your USB disk and you're ready! 'cp -a /home/dirk/Temp/xubuntu-8.10-desktop-i386.iso /media/disk'

Sunday, October 26, 2008

There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

In the UK you'll find busses with this advert on it driving around. I like it, however is this really needed? Am i just naive in thinking this is unnecessary? It will probably also get a lot of comments from all types of religions. I also believe that as an Atheist you need to allow other people to have their own belives. By pushing our 'agenda' on others we're not any better then they are. freedom of choice is an important aspect for me. And if some people deicde to ignore sience it's their choice. And that is OK by me, as long as they don't push their ideals.

Lets keep an eye on this to see how it turns out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Already old news, but it's still good news; Atheros open-sources its drivers. Currently i have two machines that have Atheros wifi chipsets, my Mac mini and an Asus eee-pc.

In fact the Mac mini doesn't need any proprietary drivers, except for wifi. With the opened Atheros drivers the whole machine is now able to run with all components covered by open source.

For the eee-pc, the Atheros is a real killer, it's not hard or impossible to work around the issue, but anything enabled out of the box is always a win. It's a pain to not have decent network access on a fresh install.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm getting rather tired of the anti Blu-Ray comments you'll find on some sites. Really, if you have a 1080p setup and have seen some Blu-Ray movies there is no way you can deny it being superiour to DVD. The images are so sharp, colorful and smooth, it is what every movie lover wants or needs. I can't believe the stories of people that spend tens of thousands of euros on a receiver to get great sound, have special chairs, rooms and expensive projectors but don't see the need to get Blu-Ray. Those people are idiots, no other word for it.
Best way to compare it is when we moved from stereo to Dolby Pro Logic, it sounded great, there was noise comming from the back, the front and from all sides. Then Dolby Digital (and DTS) came and it was even more amazing, it blew everything away in sound quality. BD is to DVD as Dolby Digital is to Dolby Pro Logic.

For some real life examples, just check out the shots in these pages, i think the images speak for themself.

Some of the arguments are as followed:

Blu-Ray is expensive
True, it is still expensive currently, which i find normal. BD is still new and it will take a few years before the prices lower. I remember my first DVD player, it costed 500 euro (and it was a promo!). However the player still works and produces a image still superiour to most players available today. The disc those days were not any better, easily costing 20 euro or more.
It's clear, when DVD was new, it was just as expensive as BD is now, the price will come down.

I will have to rebuy my DVD collection to BD
I don't see you want to do this. In case of VHS to DVD, it did make sense, after all video is a seriously bad medium to keep you movies on. DVD is a digital medium and certainly deserves preference. If you have a decent DVD version, just keep it, and enjoy the movie in upscaled quality.
Unless the BD deliveres more, there is no real reason to replace it.

Blu-Ray is full of DRM
And so does DVD, nobody (well almost nobody) is complaining about DVD use restrictions anymore.
Agreed BD has a little more rights limiting measures compared to DVD but nothing really serious.

I agree that they dropped the ball with the Iron Man release of late with the BD-Live debacle. I hope they have learned a valuable lesson, if it happens only once i guess i can let this one slip.

So, if you like movies, do yourself a favour and go HD, go Blu-Ray!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The news about Mozilla wanting to have their EULA displayed when starting up Firefox for the first time on Ubuntu, has spurred some reactions.

Really, i think this can not be allowed, at least not for the default browser. You also get a EULA when installing Opera, but it is not the standard browser you get upon initial install. The basic, clean-install Ubuntu expirience should be EULA free. There are some solutions perhaps to get past this;

  • Add a global EULA during install, which would cover all (default) installed software, but that would be hard because almost no 2 EULAs are the same.
  • Add the EULA to the default home page of firefox in Ubuntu , just expand it with the EULA or a notice about it.
What if it's not possible to do one of the above? Well, i think Ubuntu currently is big enough of a brand to not need Firefox as a default browser. There are a batch of alternative browsers available, mostly based on webkit.

The browser is for a lot of people the one-and-only application these days, it deserves to deliver the best expirience, and there are good alternatives available that do not impose restrictions on use.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm pleased to announce that on 24/8 my little baby girl was born listening to the name 'Lise'.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Nintendo Wii is popular because it is intuitive, compared to the old way of interacting with games, but is it really? How can you test such a thing, did Nintendo test this? What was the test audience age and background. All these things could influence the results of the research done. I would figure they did some decent research because there whole sales argument is based on it.

I have a Wii, and I love it. It is the best current console IMHO. Although last few weeks I witnessed something that made me think. In this age of Nintendo, I also own a DS. My oldest son, almost 3 years old, is allowed to play Super Mario 64 on it (no other game) and he adores it (again a testament of how great this game really is). He is also able to manoeuvre Yoshi/Mario/etc like a pro, very fast and accurate. What you must know is that I never explained the controls to him, he found them all out by himself, by trail and error. He got the hang of it pretty fast and so it must surely mean the controls are intuitive.

Games on the Wii, he just can't manage them (we play 'Wii Play'). VC games like the original Mario are no problem.

Are the Wii control schemes only logical from a certain age? If there are people with experiences like this I would sure like to know about them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hey, what do you know. Linux might gain another filesystem, this time from Tru64 (called AdvFS). HP just released the source code under the GPL2 license, specificly to allow integration with the Linux kernel. Chances are big it will be merged. When that happens Linux must be the OS which supports the most filesystems, and including some high-end solutions from previous Unix's like JFS and XFS.
I never had any experience with this filesystem, but from reading the short description on Wikipedia it has some resemblance with ZFS. It's nice to see HP do something like this, it's been a while since the last time they did something big for Linux or Open Source in general.

Somewhat related, The Linux Foundation released an official statement today against closed-source drivers being released for the Linux kernel. I couldn't agree more with this, ofcourse sometimes as a user there is no other choice (which I regret). For example, at work we use Cisco-vpn and it requires a kernel module to allow connections when using Linux. Same for the wireless, where some brain dead Odyssey client is used, although a Linux version is available (closed source) I refuse to install it and just make sure a cable connection is available when I need network connectivity.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I've got an Asus eee-pc, it's great. You can't argue much for that price and the functionality that it offers. Anyway, there are a lot of comments on the net about the eee already, a lot of them claiming that it's nothing new, that is has been done before and that there are almost as small, but more powerful models from various brands out there. And it's all true, but none of those beat the eee on price (also for us, linux geeks, it's about the visible first mass product).

It doesn't matter if the eee is slow and doesn't have a lot of standard storage. Everything it needs to do, it does just fine. Use it as a uber-functional pda and internet tool and nothing comes even close.

What I do start to notice however is that the umpc model is already killing itself. New models get released by almost each vendor, and they become bigger, faster, stronger, more capable and more expensive. That's not right, if you want all of that, you just buy a laptop. To all manufacturers, keep it simple, small and cheap. That's the magic combination that made the eee a success.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Getting tired of those space pictures from Mark Shuttleworth when your screensaver starts in Ubuntu. Long ago, the screensaver preference pane was different and functional although ugly. It's now much prettier, but most of the options are gone.

Ofcourse, they can still be changed by editing a simple text file. In this case, just do the following;

echo "imageDirectory: " > .xscreensaver

where is the directory containing your pictures the screensaver should use.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I learned something today, on the boot/init system of Solaris 8. Yes, it's an old mechanism that isn't used anymore in Solaris 10, but still it amazed me.

A new init script was added in /etc/rc3.d, it simply configured the network interfaces, it is called and the entry in rc3 was called something like, it only contains a 'start' part as it doesn't matter what happens to the network interfaces during shutdown.

Now, the strange thing was that all init scripts after were no longer executed, thus a bunch of stuff still needed to be started when the system had finished its boot sequence.

Turns out the culprit was the postfix '.sh', when it has this extension Solaris does something else with it. Witness this part of the /sbin/rc3 script;

for f in /etc/rc3.d/S*; do
if [ -s $f ]; then
case $f in
*.sh) . $f ;;
*) /sbin/sh $f start ;;

Notice that would get 'sourced' instead of executed by a shell. To demonstrate the effect, I have made a simple test that shows this nicely.

dirk@my-mac-mini:~/Temp$ ls
dirk@my-mac-mini:~/Temp$ cat test*

. ./
echo "test1 ends here"
exit 0

echo "test2 ends here"
exit 0
dirk@my-mac-mini:~/Temp$ ./
test2 ends here

Because of the 'exit' command in everything stops, and is not continued. Hence the init sequence stopped when it reached the end of the netcfg init script. It took some time to figure that one out, and i found no mention of the special case of '.sh' init scripts in the Solaris manuals on the Sun site.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Yes, Ubuntu Hardy Heron works just great on the Mac mini. Well, at least for the most part. I you have an Apple keyboard you will have to pull of some tricks to get it working 'better'. For example the 'num lock' does not work and will screw up your keyboard usage, I found you can reverse the effect by pressing the 'fn' key, which is located at the 'insert' key location on a PC keyboard.

You can easliy solve this buggerness by enabling this function in the 'keyboard layout' options in the 'preferences' (see screenshot). Another thing is the none-working function keys. Really great, luckily these can be enabled simply by the command;

echo 2 > /sys/module/hid/parameters/pb_fnmode

put this in your '/etc/rc.local' or for your lazyness. The one major drawback is that the sleep function isn't working. It is probably kernel related, as 2.6.24-12 from rc1 worked just fine, but the current 'stable' 2.6.24-16 doesn't. I'll try to figure out which part is responsable later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

About a month ago a press release was issued about a study from the Standish Group International, where they claim that OSS is costing software vendors $60 Billion, or about 6% yearly.

That is just great news. I suspect it will only increase in these financial challenging times. The bottom line is that we all have been paying $60 Billion to much all these years. Money we could have used to expand our own businesses.

Another way to look at it is from in investors side of things. When you think about it, it means that right now, OSS is already a $60 Billion business. And the 'commercial' OSS market is still very young and growing. It sure does look tempting to invest in such a growing market which is already eating away at other long lasting companies (well, long lasting for IT anyway).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What is going on these days, are people losing their common sense or what? Recently Kif Kif, a Belgian multi-culturian organization, wants to ban all racist posts on (Belgian) internet forums. They have a petition going right now, that you can sign, but I'm urging you not to do so.

First of all, they will have a hard time enforcing this, ever, and even if they would succeed in doing this for Belgian sites, it wont stop this from happening on millions of  sites around the globe.

They claim to be an independent instance providing a voice for a diversity of people and a place for discussion. Sounds to me that only the opinions they like are allowed, how can you have a discussion if some parties are not allowed to be heard.

If it's not true what they are saying, it should be easy enough to counter any argument the made. If they are correct in their statements, it is of the most importance that they be heard.

This brings us to Fitna, a short movie of about 15 minutes long that cuts and pastes all kind of images, sound bits, newspaper articles and news clips to make some kind of statement. Most of Europe is going nuts over it, though so far nobody has given any good argument against it.

It's funny that, by trying to 'save' us from right wing ideas, they use the same techniques they would not accept from these extremist right political parties.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I've been looking around for a good book on XCode, the development environment included with MacOS X. It's neat, but also huge and there is a lot of documentation available, but mostly it's still based on an older version of XCode and not 3.0 included with Leopard.

That's until now, because a great free online resource has been made available; Become An Xcoder. Although it starts right from the basics, you can just skip those chapters and get an update on the other bits.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Support Bruce Perens! And add your signature to this petition for accepting him as a member of the executive board of OSI.

For people who don't know him, or what he stands for, you can read up on him on wikipedia or his own web site. I know him as a former HP employee where he started Debian. He's also the founder of the LSB, busybox and a great evangelist of open source in general, up there together with ESR and RMS.
You can find him (very) active on certain discussion topics on slashdot, but he's always very willing to help anybody out. When I had some open source related problems myself, I turned to him for help and he didn't leave out cold. I can't say who else is so much available, that approachable in the OSS scene other then Bruce. He deserves your signature if you care about anything OSS related.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fosdem 08, two days of open source talks, speeches, meeting people and discovering new stuff that's out there.  You can download most talks on the Fosdem website, so I'm not going to go over them again like I did in my previous post the last few years

Instead I would like to present some pictures, that might give you an idea how the event is like (if you haven't been before).

Outside a 2CV station wagon (is this a hack? i never heard or saw this type of 2CV before) was parked, advertising the Document Freedom Day 08

I'm a loyal Fosdem donator, each year I make my donation to this free event. It has an added bonus that from a certain amount you can pick a O'Reilly book and you get included in a price draw at the end of the conference. 'The Bash Cookbook' was my pick for this year, it contains a lot of scripting tips, a good guide for any Unix system administrator. Oh, and speaking of the prizes, I actually won this amazing piece of hardware, more on this when the box arrives.

Even outside the conference rooms there is action going on. Most high profile projects and distros have their own stand, displaying demos, gadgets, advice and friendly chatter.

OK, a few emering trends I saw this year. First, the amount of Apple laptops that were used. Here a picture taken in between 2 talks. In this shot you see both a MacBook and a MacBook Pro. It almost looked like everybody had them, there were that many. Also, for all the talks I 'd been to, There were only 2 non-Mac speakers (the guys from fedora/centos).

Another trend, when you don't have an Apple, at least show up with an Eee PC. I don't think they are available in Europe yet, still that didn't stop them from popping up everywhere you looked.

Aaw, who could ever hurt such a little cute foxy.

Nobody is going to pin me down.

Yep, the usual suspects, last year the OLPC was shown during an opening talk, this year a truckload of them were displayed and usable for everybody.

That's how a fried sliced potato looks like from behind. Poor guy, dragging laptops, water and all kinds of stuff around the place.

Most talks were hot, certainly the Mozilla dev talks during the first day.

The room was packed, all the time! I believe the most successful talks were given by the Mozilla people this year. Can you blame them? There are so many interesting project building on and around the Mozilla project, not just Firefox and Thunderbird. But also Songbird and Miro, check them out!

This was something new, never before seen on Fosdem - Beer. There was a lot of beer drinking going on. I had never seen this the previous years, but luckily everybody was smart enough not to get drunk so the only hindrance you got was empty bottles lying all over the place. I'm a Belgian, and thus I don't have anything against beer (I like it more then wine in fact), but this conference is not the place for massive beer consumption.

Outside view of one of the buildings.

Don't forget to wash your hands.

Did you ever code with the daemon in the pale moonlight?

I loved this idea, it's brilliant! Users of Gnome (the best desktop environment for Unix systems) had this up on the wall at their stand. On the left you could leave a post-it on what you really loved about Gnome, on the right side you could leave a message on the worst bug or most needed currently missing feature.

This year Fosdem was extremely good. A lot of quality talks, a lot of people. And that could be the rising problem. Fosdem is growing, it's getting bigger, but the location stays the same. Some rooms were so packed that there was no possible way of getting in anymore. Perhaps they should start looking out for a new location or get more rooms from the VUB for next year event.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Wii might just turn out to be the greatest console for all 30-somethings. It's nice for kids, it has great games and nostalgica galore, which now even reaches another peak with the introduction of C64 games in VC!

Friday, February 08, 2008

It's been a while since my last post, I'm still here ofcourse. Something changed, I have bought an Apple PC - the delightful Mac Mini (2Ghz version).

A real beautiful piece of hardware, and ultra-quiet. MacOSX Leopard is very nice as well (don't worry, Ubuntu is installed using BootCamp), but I'm still in the learning phase GUI wise. The approach is different for some aspects, like keyboard commands and the handling of application windows.

You'll notice a lot of Gnome in MacOSX, while on the other hand you'll notice how much Gnome differs.

Anyway, most of the the time they try to make it so easy for you it's scary. Even when playing around with the shell it's almost plug-and-play wise. Do you have an NFS server available? automount is configured in such a way that you only have to use the following command to mount a remote drive:

ls|cd|whatever-cmd /net/nfs-server/share path

Thursday, January 10, 2008

In the past Ubuntu had the Nvu HTML-editor in its repositories. Now I suddenly had to adjust some HTML pages and since the were previously made with Nvu (call me lazy) I wanted to edit them in that tool again. To my surprise it was no longer in the gnome menu or the repositories.

After looking around, I discovered that KompoZer is in fact an independent continued developed version of Nvu. Although it starts with a 'K' it is no KDE app, it is really the same tool but more stable and less bugs.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It's 2008! And the things that I will remember from 2007 concerning Linux are the following:

The best games of last year are:

  • Wii: 'Resident Evil 4' I bought SMG and MP3 but haven't played them yet simply because RE4 was so good.
  • DS: 'Final Fantasy 3' Sure it didn't get very high scores in most reviews, but as a FF fanatic and RPG lover it was one of the best things on the faithful handheld last year.

What was worth watching on TV this year, only one thing and it was:

Best distro of 2007 goes to: