A month of Fedora 12

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.

When open is not open, and reviving a hard disk

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!