It looks like the Chrome OS is a bad strategy for Google, if you ask the market researchers. For me, if I could tweak the OS, then it really makes for a compelling device. My mother do not use touchscreen devices, and buying a tablet for her is not a great idea. However, she is quite adept at using a desktop or a laptop and for her, Chrome OS is a great idea.
I have a home server that runs Cent OS, and most content we consume at home is stored on it. I can create separate pages for Movies, Music, Mail, Web (linking to some website), TV and News; and then add shortcuts to the homepage like below (pardon the rough edges):
Look at the implications if she uses Chrome OS, with these modified settings:
No need for me to configure something whenever an issue occurs.
No CDs to carry around for installing a new version of the distro (of course, CDs are obsolete but sometimes you do need them)
A much easier way for her to access content that she wants.
She can use a device that she is used to: No learning curve.
No hard drive => Much less power.
I can restrict internet access as needed.
In a typical development organization, we can have a central source code repository (maybe an extension to check out and commit code), a web-based editor and separate servers(virtual or real). Separate servers can be used for research and development, production, testing and support phases.
In document-intensive work environments, a local server (or a pool) can be used to store documents – something similar to Zoho but stored locally. Of course, the data can also be stored on a web-based provider such as Zoho, Google or Microsoft if necessary.
I believe that the Chrome OS is not a lost cause, or a poor strategy as many would have us believe. It is not, as of now, a closed and big brother controlled platform as Apple’s iOS. And it truly abstracts all the hardware and software from the user, providing a single interface – the browser. I can’t wait to see this concept in action.
I bought a Galaxy 3 over a month back. It is a really good phone for its price and fun to use too. I have quite a few apps installed and found some really nice ones.
The phone comes with a pre-installed copy of ThinkFree Office, which is fine for editing and viewing office documents. It also lets you view PDF files.
The Daily Briefing app is useful, showing your calendar tasks and weather updates, apart from Yahoo Finance and AP News (both of which I don’t use).
I use Daily Expense Manager to keep a tab on my spendings, it’s a really useful app apart from the fact that you can only enter expenses, not income.
The Evernote and Dropbox apps are pretty usable and are actually useful, even on the slightly cramped screen.
Internet and Social:
Opera Mini is the browser of my choice, for I can get Indic fonts to work with it. Dolphin Browser is good for viewing full websites (not mobile-optimized) if you are on 3G, but Opera Mini is far more useful for those stuck with GPRS and EDGE.
There are apps for Twitter, Facebook, etc but I prefer to use TweetDeck.
The GMail app is good, and there is an app for Yahoo! Mail too. But the default mail client doesn’t work with my work mail which uses Exchange.
There is a Google Talk client, but I prefer Meebo as it lets me connect to multiple IM services.
I have the WordPress app installed, which I am using to publish this post. The Youtube app is the only place where Flash works, and the app is good enough to view a short video. The small screen doesn’t actually let you enjoy longer videos, such as movies.
Games and Entertainment:
I am not much of a gamer, but I tend to play a few games when I feel like it. I particularly love Slice It, which is a lovely game that tests your touchscreen skills and also a bit of geometry.
I have quite a few Sudoku games installed, however I’ll be uninstalling almost all of them soon. This is a situation where I might as well create an apk for my own use.
Jewels is similar to Gweled ( a.k.a Bejeweled) and I like it enough to let it stay on my phone.
I use FBReader to read books. I tried out Aldiko and a few other apps, but not fit the bill apart from FBReader.
The Google Scoreboard app is fine, but seriously seeing cricket scores like Australia 245 – 620 England is not what I wanted, so I use ESPN ScoreCenter.
The default media player works fine, but it doesn’t remember the last played song, so I use Winamp. It lacks an equaliser, but it is a decent audio player with a touch of nostalgia.
Lookout is a security app that scans applications when you install them. You can also back up your contacts online using a free account. AppBrain is useful for installing apps, and is a good replacement for the default Market app. AppMonster lets you manage your installed apps effectively and also back up the APKs to SD card. APNDroid lets you switch off and on data services easily. Google Reader, Sky Map and Maps work well too. NetCounter lets you keep track of data usage for different networks (EDGE, Wi-fi). NeoReader is the best barcode reader app I’ve seen for this phone. RealCalc is an advanced calculator and I love it.
If you have any apps that you love, do share it in the comments. Cheers!
I finally upgraded from my dated Nokia 3110c to a new phone last month. And yes, it had to run Android. I chose to go with the Samsung Galaxy 3 for two reasons: Reliable service, and I have a newfound affection for Samsung of late. Their products have never given me any problems – except when my PC display went dead for a night. Even then the display was up by the time I got back from work, thanks to the friendly service person who came to check it long past his work hours (I assume they too work 9-6 like the rest of us.)
Having used this phone for over a month now, I can clearly see myself using my desktop and laptop less and less. Of course, I do use a desktop at work. But for personal mail, social networking, music, surfing blogs and other activities I use my phone nowadays. I have to get to my desktop for some purposes like programming, drafting long mails, seeing movies and the like. But for viewing music videos, sending a quick response to mail, this phone is more than handy.
It comes with Android 2.1 Eclair, and I’ve heard that an update to Froyo is on the anvil. I have rooted the phone, found it too buggy, and reverted to the Samsung 2.1 ROM that it came with.
The phone has a very decent display, but I thought the resolution (240 x 400) might be tricky. I have had no problems with most apps I have used so far. Using the on screen keyboard in portrait mode takes a bit of practice, mainly because the screen is narrow. But Swype saves users the pain of tapping every key to type a word. (In fact, I typed this blog post and the two prior to it on my phone.)
Text messages are organised as conversations – which is useful if you are like me, forgetting what you had asked the person who just replied Yes or No. You cannot send a message to more than 20 contacts at a time though.
The default music player has the options normally expected, but it doesn’t remember which song you were listening to. The surround sound mode is not great, given the tendency of the bundled earphones to fall out of my ear. I recommend using a better pair earphones, like the Sennheiser MX series. The video player handled movies upto 720p fairly easily, but given the low number of pixels it was not great watching them. The YouTube app works pretty well, streaming videos without any lag over a 3G connection. But on EDGE and GPRS, you’ll need to be patient enough for the video to buffer.
The Wi-fi works well enough at home, where I use it ten metres and two walls away from my wireless router. The signal strength was as good as my laptop. I could transfer files from my home server without any difficulty and at speeds I did not expect. The camera has a basic 3.1 megapixels, with no flash. I wouldn’t use this camera unless I had nothing else on hand with which to capture a still. Especially indoors, the camera is not at all usable. Outdoors however, it is usable and the quality is comparable to most 2MP cameras on Sony Ericcson phones.
The battery didn’t last me the whole day when I first used it. However, letting it drain and then charging it to 100% did the trick, and it lasts just under two days for a single charge. That’s commendable, considering I use GPS for an hour or so, Wi-fi for two odd hours and play music for two hours a day.
The GPS didn’t work properly at the first try, but a simple trick set it right. Dial *#*#1472365*#*# and you’ll be presented with the GPS settings menu. Press back, and it starts working fine.
That’s my review of the Galaxy 3, after a month of regular use. I have many apps installed too, I’ll tell about them at a later time.
Google Chrome has become my browser of choice on Linux, although it seems to pale in comparison to the wide featureset of Mozilla Firefox. However, one can easily make Chrome as feature filled as Mozilla using the many extensions available for Chrome.
These are the Chrome extensions that I have installed:
* AdBlock: The popular ad blocker for Firefox in its Chrome avatar.
* Blocker: In Firefox, we can block images and other elements from specified domains, but Chrome doesn’t have this feature. This extension provides this functionality.
* Chromed Bird: The best twitter client on Chrome, and any browser for that matter.
* Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer: This allows us to view PDFs and other documents using Google docs, thus avoiding the many vulnerabilities common in PDF files.
* PlainClothes: This is a fun addon that lets you see how a webpage will look devoid of the ‘eye candy’
* RSS Subscription Extension: A much needed RSS Feed extension, this is among the first ones I install.
* XMarks Bookmarks Sync: Yes, Chrome already has a syncing option, but this is the best bet if you use multiple browsers on multiple distros.
* Webmail Ad Blocker: This extension, as the name suggests, blocks ads in GMail and other webmail clients.
Hope you enjoy the browsing experience with the new browser. Suggest more of your favourite addons in the comments.
I’ve been wanting to try a non-Linux OS for quite sometime, and managed to download PC-BSD today. My PC already runs Fedora 13 and Ubuntu 10.04. I use Fedora’s GRUB to manage my boot process. After installing PC-BSD, I stuck with the same bootloader to manage the boot process.
I primarily use Fedora 13. The rest of the folks at home use Ubuntu or Fedora. I’ve messed around a lot with GRUB 2, but I do not like fiddling with a new version of the bootloader. So I remain loyal to the ‘legacy’ version of GRUB and will be using it until Fedora migrates to the new version.
You can also set up a triple boot (or any n-boot) system by using the older version GRUB. The process takes just a few steps.
Here’s how I did it:
1. I installed Fedora 13 first, and with it the GRUB to the MBR.
2. Later, I installed Ubuntu 10.04, but chose not to install the bootloader in the last step in the installer. You can do this by clicking on the Advanced button.
3. To add Ubuntu to Fedora’s GRUB, I just had to add the title, root and kernel entries for Lucid:
4. I installed PC-BSD, once again without the bootloader.
5. To add PC-BSD to the boot menu, I added just 3 lines:
title PC-BSD 8.0
An advantage of using GRUB 2 in one of the distros is that I never need to update the GRUB menu on Fedora. GRUB 2 automatically places a shortcut to the latest kernel in the / directory of the Ubuntu partition, so one doesn’t have to keep updating Fedora’s GRUB menu whenever Ubuntu’s kernel is updated.
Note: The logos in the image are copyright of their respective owners.
It seems that most of my classmates are moving to Linux, mostly Ubuntu and Fedora, although it is for the sake of their projects. Here goes a comparison why Linux is infinitely better than Windows here:
Tools for the job:
For my friends who need to do image or signal processing as part of their work, there are two options: Matlab or Octave. But Matlab isn’t free while Octave is. One professor recommended Octave to his students, and others are following suit.
For the project I’m working on, I need a SCM tool, and one that runs on Linux. I’m using git, python, pyxml and umbrello for my project since I’m more comfortable with Linux than Windows (At places where I must use Windows, such as internet cafes, I still press Alt-F2 to run a program 🙂 ) Thankfully, my teammates are also comfy with Linux, one being a RHCE.
Some friends of mine are working on cloud-based projects, so they have been using Ubuntu server (since their guide has heard of Eucalyptus)
One of the reasons I love Linux is the fact that the whole household can use it for work and play, and I can type in my native Tamil as fast as I type in English. I admit that the Unicode keyboard profile is not the best thing out there, but practice and patience mean that it is far easier now to type in Tamil than to transliterate.
There are some people who’re reluctant to come out of their Windows shell (oops, is there a shell in windows?), mainly due to fear or fan-worshipping Bill Gates. The former category would do better to read this:
“After closing the doors that lead you nowhere, throw away the key! Because our tendency is to look back and regret.” – Paulo Coelho. But I don’t regret it, and so won’t you.
To be frank, I’ve been using Fedora 12 since the latter half of October from the release candidates, and it is a surprise that there has not been a single issue. There were bugs in the Fedora 11 anaconda installer, and I didn’t like the wallpaper as much as the older ones. But I just love the default Leonidas wallpaper, and many other UI quirks don’t exist, at least for me.
I had installed the release candidates from 1 to 4, and thereon, updated from release candidate 4 to final release two days after November 17. Two exams on 17th and 18th had made me postpone the update. I have modified the base install to make it more convenient and productive for me:
I deleted the lower panel and moved the window changer to the top panel since my display is a measly 15.6 inches at 1366×768 pixels. My laptop too has the same resolution, albeit at 14.1 inches. Then I added the System Monitor applet and power button to the panel since I need to keep a tab on my bandwidth.
As Rahul Sundaram suggested on Fedora Forums, I’ve switched over to OpenJDK, and all my Java code (there’s not much code actually) runs smooth without any issue. In fact the Java Mail API and MySQL connector run better than the stock Sun JDK which had a few issues. I’d been a NetBeans user for long, but the Eclipse bundled in Fedora 12 is better than NetBeans and it didn’t take much for me to switch allegiance.
Meanwhile KDE has got better compared to previous iterations, but is still short of the KDE Gold Standard set by openSUSE. While on openSUSE, I have a serious issue: No DHT support in openSUSE 11.2. This might be a fallout of the court rulings on The Pirate Bay, so let’s hark back to Fedora.
Empathy is still nascent with no IRC support (really bad, IM – IRC != IM for me) But for the ability to call friends on Google Talk (Yay!) and better integration with GNOME, I’d not have used it much. I use xchat for IRC anyway, but this is something that Empathy should be having.
Last week, my younger brother got some CD for his board exams, which had a few xls files and a massive mdb file. I was scratching my head, and then headed to sf.net. I installed mdbtools and the gui that goes with it, and then imported the tables to a csv file. I used Python to extract the data into a text document, and converted the CSV file to SQL so that I can create an app emulating the windows one using MySQL and Python. That is an example of the power of open source. I often rant about the need for open formats and ban proprietary formats. Some are plain evil, like Sony’s vem format that you cannot read unless you have the ‘MicroVault’ flash drive.
I’ve installed Qt 4.6 on my desktop, and it is really a ‘cutie’ for developing cross platform apps. Qt + Python = cross platform heaven. I’m going to move over to Qt now on, to get some experience developing using SDK.
Overall, Fedora 12 is just about the best desktop distribution for folks with prior Linux experience, but people who are new to computers can jump onto the bandwagon right away.
After I installed Fedora 12 for a friend, he asked me what software he’d need for using it as a primarily home desktop user. I have some experience with home users who just need things to work, without the hassle of installing software whenever they want to open a file. Add to that the lack of broadband penetration, or even basic internet connectivity in India, it makes for an awful situation.
I already had many packages cached in my /var/cache/yum directory. We both had the same 32 bit install, so I figured it’d work. I first deleted his /var/cache/yum directory as root, then copied my directory which was around 15 GB to his hard disk. Then I wrote him a small script, which proved pretty useful to install all that he would ever want.
Here goes a slightly modified version of the script that works for Fedora 13:
# Post Install Update script
# To install many required packages that are missing from the default Fedora 12 installation
# Login as root to install the packages
# The -y flag is used to accept downloading and installing all dependencies
# Update all currently installed software
# This group contains the GNU Compiler Collection and other utilities:
yum groupinstall 'Build Essentials' -y
yum groupinstall 'Office/Productivity' -y
# Add the RPMFusion repositories to your system
rpm -ivh http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm
rpm -ivh http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm
# RPMFusion contains the VLC packages:
yum install vlc* -y
# .. and also the unrar package to extract data from rar archives:
yum install unrar -y
# To install Adobe's flash plugin:
rpm -ivh http://linuxdownload.adobe.com/adobe-release/adobe-release-i386-1.0-1.noarch.rpm
rpm --import /etc/pki/rpm-gpg/RPM-GPG-KEY-adobe-linux
yum install flash-plugin alsa-plugins-pulseaudio libcurl ndiswrapper -y
yum groupinstall 'Sound and Video'
# LXDE is a lightweight desktop environment, recommended for older and low end computers.
yum install @lxde-desktop
# Need to be installed from RPMFusion in order to play media files encoded using proprietary codecs.
yum install gstreamer* -y
# To install Google Chrome
name=Google - i386
gpgkey=https://dl-ssl.google.com/linux/linux_signing_key.pub " > /etc/yum.repos.d/google.repo
yum install google-chrome -y
The latest version of Fedora, 12 is about to be released in a week or so, and here is how to install it:
Download the Live CD, or the DVD if you wish to. I downloaded the Live CD, and it weighs in at 653 MB, smaller than most other distros that tend to cram the CD with 690 MB and over. Burn the image onto a CD, and then boot your system off the live CD, and you’ll see this screen:
Now, if you don’t press any key, you’ll get into the login screen (Figure 3). If you do press a key, you’ll view this boot options screen:
Select the second option to test your live media or the third to test your system’s memory. But most probably, you’d want to check just the media, and then after that select the first option to get into the login screen:
You can choose your language, and then login as the Live System User. You’ll see the Fedora 12 Live desktop in all its glory:
Now, start the installation procedure by double clicking the Install to Hard Drive icon on the desktop:
Once you fire up the installer, you get to this screen, click Next to proceed:
In the Keyboard Selection screen, choose the appropriate keyboard for your system. I use the default US International keyboard. There are many languages supported:
Click on Next after selecting your keyboard, and the computer name screen comes up. Let it default to localhost.localdomain if your system is standalone, and if you are on a network, ask your network administrator and change it. If you are installing Fedora 12 on your server, give it the domain name you use for the server.
Click on Next and on the next screen, choose your time zone. It is set by default to New York, USA. Hover over the map to locate your time zone:
Remember to uncheck the System clock uses UTC if it is not set that way, else you may see a discrepancy in time by the cutoff between your timezone and GMT. Your selected time zone should appear below the map:
The next step is to choose a root password. This is a main part of securing your system, so make sure the password is atleast 12 characters long. And use a password with alphabets in both cases and numerals. It is good practice to have a strong password, especially for the root user:
The next screen is the disk partitioning. If you are going to dual boot, choose to Use Free Space. This option works well for a fresh installation too:
The installer will ask if you want to write the changes in partitioning to disk. Click on Write changes to disk:
The installer will now copy the Live CD image onto the hard disk, and this might take from 40 seconds to 3 minutes:
The installer will also install the boot loader. If you have another OS installed, it’ll autodetect it and setup the bootloader. I’m installing this on a fresh Virtual Hard Disk, so I didn’t need that:
Now, the installer has done its job, and you can either continue using the Live CD, or setup the installed system after exiting the installer:
We’re halfway through the install, the harder parts are over though. Now, exit the Live CD:
After this, restart the system:
Remove the Live CD when it pops out, or while rebooting the system. Once the system restarts with the Live CD inserted, however, you can also choose to Boot from local drive in Figure 2.
The post installation activity starts now, with the welcome screen:
Click on Next to view the License Information. Click on Next to accept it:
Now, the user creation screen comes up, where you create the non-root user. Don’t use the same password as the root user(allowed, but never recommended) and use a strong password here too:
In the next step, set the date and time. You can choose to synchronize it with the NTP(Network Time Protocol) server pool, or set it manually too:
The next step asks you if you want to upload your hardware profile. This is actually a good thing to do, since if your install fails for some reason, the profile can be used to locate the error, or any bugs unique to your profile can be fixed:
After you click Next for the final time, you’ll enter the login screen:
That’s all there is to the installation process. Once you get into the desktop, you can install more packages for the applications that you use.
Note: This install was done over a Virtual Machine using KVM assigned 512MB memory on Fedora 12 RC3. The installation process worked the same way on my desktop, when I installed it alongside a previous install of Fedora 11. The final release is due on November 17, but I doubt there will be any change in the installation process. It’ll just work the same way.
I was doing some work on OpenOffice.org when I saw the term Microsoft Office Open XML(OOXML) on a site and was duly shocked at this openness, then it struck me that I had heard someone talk about this format(at a FOSS event in college) and Microsoft’s attempt to get it ratified as an ISO standard. I wondered if they had managed to buy people out, and unsurprisingly they had. I don’t have anything against the corporation, they develop some good looking (don’t get me started on the performance) software and good hardware. What I don’t believe in is the abuse of their position as an established and respected company. If you want your format to become the industry standard so badly, try to make it better than the current benchmark, which still is the Open Document Format. I do not see any advantage of OOXML over ODF, be it file compression, compatibility, uniform implementation etc. The previous document format, .doc was fine, but was not compressed enough.
If Microsoft was so particular on using an Open format, they could have adopted ODF. Why can’t you? Star Office is commercial, and uses ODF, so there’s no stopping Microsoft from using it. The only advantage of OOXML is that it is supported by the office suite with largest user base, Microsoft Office. The argument no longer holds water, since Office 2007 supports ODF from Service Pack 2 onwards. This unethical buying of approval is what makes me dislike MS. I still respect Bill Gates as a messiah of the personal computing revolution, but I am no longer reliant on MS software. I have the freedom of choice courtesy Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Larry Wall, Guido van Roosum and numerous other people who have made the world of open source heaven.
A rather interesting thing happened this week. A friend’s external hard disk had gone berserk and wouldn’t open in XP or Ubuntu. Saravanan(A genius, an RHCE and a linux freak/geek all rolled into one person! ) and myself helped him out, but it didn’t work out. So I got his hard disk home yesterday and set down to work. I booted up my favoured OS, Fedora 11 and it detected the disk but did not display the contents. So I got into a virtual terminal and force mounted it and voila, everything was normal. I copied all data to my hard disk, formatted the external drive and then copied back all the data. It worked fine on Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, XP, Vista and Seven. This is another advantage of using open source software such as Fedora. It helps you solve others’ PC troubles and yours too!
I went to a research conference Dhi Yantra 2009(means Intellectual Machine in Sanskrit) which focuses on High Performance Computing and Human Brain Modeling(I’m more interested in the former). Today was the first of the three days. It was an illuminating experience listening to people like Dr. Murali Murugavel from from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and several other WARFT alumni and research trainees. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s sessions which are to concentrate on supercomputing. Dr. Rupak Biswas, who is Acting Chief, Supercomputing Division, NASA Ames Research Center; Dr. Rajesh Kasturirangan, Associate Professor, National Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore and Research Scientist, MIT, Boston and a few others will deliver their keynote lectures over the weekend.
The Ashes test seems to be going Australia’s way after a long partnership between Katich and Ponting. I wonder why Harmy is not playing, he could have changed the course of this game. If Aussie selectors were fools in dropping the crazy diamond Symonds, their English counterparts are fools on a higher plane. Here’s hoping England get back into this game, and have a nice weekend ahead!