Monthly Archives: June 2007

Lots of….work!!

Its been some time since my last post. Work is taking up most of my time these days and I am unable to post regularly. But, yes, a lot of work is just what the doctor ordered since I did not have too much to do in the last couple of months. Work helps me to get back to my normal speed of doing things both at home and at office. I know, some of you might hate that statement, but, yes, that’s me 😀

At this point, I have no ideas on what to post about. Let me just think. I have a whole day tomorrow to come up with ideas.

Dell Inspiron 6400 – Part 4 – Installing Ubuntu 7.04

A couple of days earlier, I had given a hint of what I was doing with my laptop. Today lets dive deeper and see what that was all about. Well, I installed the most popular Linux distribution, Ubuntu 7.04 (aka Feisty Fawn) on my laptop and it would dual boot with Windows Vista Home Premium that had come preinstalled with the machine. I will share with you my experiences.

Steps

  1. Backup important files

  2. Checklist of required items

  3. Partition hard disk

  4. Install Ubuntu

  5. Reboot and check Windows can still boot

  6. Reboot into Ubuntu

Caution: The steps outlined below deal with partitioning and formatting. If you are following these steps to do the installation yourself and are not sure about a particular step, exercise caution else you might end up losing all the data on your disk. I recommend taking help of a friend who is knowledgeable about partitioning and formatting hard disks.
Backup

Its always a good idea to backup important files before I – for that matter you or anyone else – venture into the exciting world of OS installation. I made sure that my backups can be restored and the files are in good order.

Checklist of required items

  1. Ubuntu 7.04 CD. I downloaded the iso image from here and burnt a CD. Make sure that you download the correct version matching your processor type. Alternately, you can order a pressed CD from Canonical at Shipit

  2. Windows DVD that came with my laptop – for the worst case scenario

Partitioning the hard disk

I had read in the forums that if I need to dual boot with Windows Vista, then I need to partition the disk using the Disk Management tool that comes with Windows. Right click on My Computer > Manage. Select Storage > Disk Management. I shrunk and existing partition and made some free space. I then created three simple partitions to hold the root, home and swap partitions. The first two were 10 GB each and the swap partition was 1 GB in size. I formatted the drives as NTFS. Though this is not required, I went ahead since I did not want to have any trouble while installing. I rebooted my laptop again and made sure that Windows was still able to pull itself up. Yes, it was ok. The new drives showed up correctly. The reason we do the partitioning in Windows is, Windows does not allow changes to the partition table and will require you to restore the partition table using the repair option available on the Windows DVD.

Dell laptops by default would have 4 primary partition one each for the OS, Recovery, Dell Media Direct and a small 50 MB partition for which I saw no use rather than to install a boot manager. The small 50 MB partition was formatted as FAT 16.

Installing Ubuntu

I rebooted my laptop with the Ubuntu CD. You can boot from the CD by selecting the device in the boot menu. On Dell machines you can do this by holding down the F12 key when the system boots up. The networks were configured and I was able to surf the net. I then started the installation. This is now a 7 step process. The first three steps involve selecting your language, keyboard layout and time zone. Next was the partitioning.

Since I already had my drives partitioned, the only task here was to select Manual partitioning and assign the drives to appropriate partitions. I selected the drive, clicked on edit partition and selected the mount point as / (root), home and swap respectively. I also chose the file system as ext3, one of the best available today and asked the partition manager to format my / and home partitions. If you get an error that one of your partitions has some inconsistent sectors, allocation units etc, click on Cancel. Clicking on Ignore will spell trouble during the boot manager installation and render the machine non bootable in either OS. I learnt this the hard way. I was all set and continued with the install. It took around 14 minutes for the install to complete.

Reboot and check Windows can still boot

I rebooted and GRUB appeared. I selected Windows which was listed as the last option. I held my breath as the OS came to life. No signs of trouble here. I was able to login and everything looked so good.

Reboot into Ubuntu

So, I booted into Ubuntu. All was well here too. I was greeted with a popup that said the OS was using restricted drivers for the Wireless device. I tried connecting to a Wireless network and there was no problem. The NTFS drives were automatically mounted as read only and I could open the files on the Windows section of my hard disk. I had at hand a very usable, friendly, fast and stable OS. I strongly feel I can live using Ubuntu alone.

Conclusion

All my fears of dual booting with Windows Vista was laid to rest when I saw that GRUB managed quite well in the end. I am enjoying Ubuntu now and has been a while since I booted into Vista. The memory footprint was also small. Would that not constitute another post? Well, yes, kinda. I am planning to write a review on Ubuntu sometime next week and will cover all these in detail. Some of you might ask why dual boot when I can live with Ubuntu. Simple, I have paid for Windows Vista when I purchased the laptop and I will use it for what it is worth. A few games, Windows DVD creator is a cool app that lets me create photo DVDs with some neat effects. So its going to be both atleast for sometime now.

I am glad to help anyone who might have questions regarding the dual boot installation process. However, my limited time may not be in favor of that and I have to admit that I may not be able to help on time. I recommend that you visit the Ubuntu forums at http://www.ubuntuforums.org.

Dell Inspiron 6400 – Part 4 – Other Applications

Now that my laptop with the OS was working well, it was time to get some software installed to be productive. Here is a list of software that I installed – without any fuss except for the UAC nag.

1. OpenOffice.org suite 2.2.0 with JRE
2. Adobe Reader 8.0
3. Jdk-6-windows-i586 for my development work
4. Apache Tomcat 6.0.13
5. Mozilla Firefox 2.0.0.3
6. WinRAR 3.7 Beta 8
7. An outdated but really capable and lightweight Java IDE GeI
8. Adobe Flash Player plugins for both IE and Firefox
9. Microsoft Office Word Viewer 2003
10. Microsoft Office Excel Viewer 2003
11. Microsoft Office PowerPoint Viewer 2003

Ironically, the problems were with the pre-installed Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 DE which was not very comfortable with the Windows libraries. I had to re-install this application to resolve the problem. The Roxio Direct-to-Disc application which is a part of the Roxio EMC 9 suite did not have a suitable driver – I did not understand, that is what windows complained at startup – and I removed it for good. It was of no use to me anyway.

Dell Inspiron 6400 – Part 3 – Screenshots

After the first two parts [part 1, part 2] I could not manage to get a post the third post ready today. So, here are a bunch of screenshots.

All the screenshots are in 1280×800 resolution, PNG Format

Desktop

About

Explorer

Control Panel

Well, the last one is a sign of progress 🙂
More details on this one in the coming days

Feisty Desktop

 

 

 

Dell Inspiron 6400 – Part 2

This is part two of the series on my laptop. We had already seen about the build and the hardware in part 1. Before we look at the OS, lets have a peek at the laptop specifications.

Intel® CoreTM 2 Duo Processor T5300 (2MB Cache, 1.73GHz, 533MHz FSB)
Genuine Windows VistaTM Home Premium
Intel® 945GM Chipset
1 GB DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz (2X512MB)
120GB1 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
15.4″ Wide Screen XGA TFT Display (1280×800 res.)
4 USB Ports (2.0), Integrated IEEE1394 Port
6 Cell 53Whr Lithium Ion Primary Battery
Intel® PRO/Wireless 3945 Network Connection 802.11a/g
Integrated Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 945 Up to 224MB shared system memory
Intel® PRO/Wireless 3945 Network Connection 802.11a/g
Integrated Stereo Sound w/ subwoofer
DVD Burner

Now lets look at the OS

    1. General: As the name implies, the version that was bundled (on request, else it would have been Windows Vista Home Basic). The OS at first look was pretty solid and looked good. But first looks deceive. The OS has been considerably dumbed down compare to the previous releases of the OS. Easy tasks like changing icon for a file type has been completely removed from the Folder Options dialog. Now one has to do a Registry setting to change the icon for a particular file type. This is a serious annoyance to developers like me since distinguishing the file types becomes difficult. I tried the add a new Key called DefualtIcon registry hack suggested on so many Windows forums but it did not work for me. Then there is another place in the control panel which lets the user to change the default association of file types with programs. Here again, you can only change the program. There is no way to change the description of a file type. Such small things may not mean a lot to many people, but considering the name of the OS, at least there should have been a way to do it.

    2. Aero: I am really not sure why so much hype was given to Aero. I agree, the interface is quite nice, shiny progress bars, maximize, restore and close buttons that light up when you hover your mouse over them, thumbnails when you hover your mouse on an open program in the taskbar, transparency everywhere. But if this is the criteria for selling an OS, then I am disappointed. There aren’t even a couple of other themes included save for a bunch of wallpapers.

    3. Start Menu: In one word. Bad to Worse. Navigating through a lot of layers of menus was painful. Now you have to either scroll to open the program you want or type the name of the program in the search box. <sarcasm>Wonderfully use friendly</sarcasm>

    4. IE: Well, most of us already know what it is capable of. So I got Firefox installed.

    5. Networking: Just worked out for me.

    6. User Access Control: Those pesky dialogs which popup whenever you try to run a third party app that has not been certified by MS. You can easily disable this from the Control Panel. But thats not the end to it. A red shield sits in the system tray and keeps popping out a bubble saying that you are strongly recommended to turn on UAC.

    7. Windows Components: Windows Explorer has been redesigned and the icons for folders and a few common files like images, music have be done again. They are neat and pretty. Windows Explorer is also a pleasure to use. Additional programs like Windows Calendar, Windows Email, Windows DVD Maker have been included. I have not tried the email client. Both Calendar and DVD Maker are usable. Calendar is again dumbed down version of the MS Office Outlook Calendar. In MS Office Outlook I can double click on the calendar area and instantly create an appointment or a task with as many details as I wish. But here you could just enter the title and then edit the item in the sidebar.

    8. Control Panel: That another mess. Too many icons spoil the panel. But fortunately you can switch over to the classic versions of the Control Panel. Which on is better. Add/Remove Programs or Programs and Features? Hm. Well again, everyone may not agree with me. I found the former easier.

    9. Security: MS made sure that this was their most secure Windows ever. But they still let users login without a password. I agree you can do this in Linux as well. Windows Defender, Windows Firewall are built into the OS now. I did not get a chance to check them out.

    10. Windows Media Center: No complaints here. Everything worked well except for the small quirk that the songs took a whole three seconds before they started playing and the same was noticed when I clicked the Next button. However, when I ran Windows Media Player as a separate application, sometimes it struggled to play the songs. The output was jarred for a song that plays well when used with Winamp.

Ok. So much for the OS. If there is something I may have missed, let me know, so that I can check out those features as well.

Dell Inspiron 6400 – Part 1

28 May 2007, 11. 20 PM: The day, I got my laptop setup and working. I called Dell support in the afternoon and confirmed that they will be coming over to my home to setup the laptop. The time was fixed as 5.30 PM. So I decided to come home early. I had meeting at office. The meeting was preponed on request from a colleague. Thanks to her. I left office at 3.30 PM.

It was not until 4 PM that I got a bus to home. I was lucky again. This time I got a direct bus and the only thing I needed to do was to walk for ten minutes. I reached my stop in less than half an hour since there was no traffic. The first thing I did was go to a nearby shop and get a couple of blank CDs which I required for partitioning the hard disk. I had downloaded Gparted and wanted to burn it in case there is a problem with the partitioning.

The service engineer arrived at 5.45 PM after giving me a call that he would reach within 15 minutes. There was a power cut since the electricity department was changing the line poles. I was thinking that they should complete their work by 6 and so there should not be any problem when the engineer arrived.

When we both entered the home, there was no power. I asked him if the battery in the laptop will have backup power and he answered positively. When we were unpacking the laptop, power returned, to my relief.

I had various doubts regarding the usage of the laptop and he clarified most of them. He asked me if I want to partition the disk so that I can use it as I wish. He said he can do it for me. I told him that I  have done it several times before and had no problem doing it myself.

I started repartitioning even in his presence and he said that I could not do more than 3 primary partitions. I told him that we can do 4. There was some trouble creating the new partition. So what I did was to wipe out the Dell Media Direct partition and clubbed it with the available free space in the system. The formatting took forever. I wish MS concentrates on such things. I had to wait for 45 minutes to get a 50 GB partition formatted. Guess what? And then I realized that I needed more partitions for my Fiesty install. I repartitioned. And this time I did not format from within Windows. I did it with Gparted. What a surprise. The entire process was over in less than 30 seconds. Huh! Open source apps do a better job handling a MS file system than MS itself.

I played around with various things and then found Windows Vista to be lacking in a few counts. The Media Center was not so responsive and dragged to my dislike. Sometimes there were gaps when the songs played. Overall, I guess, the system was good. I loaded a Knoppix live CD and it zoomed.

A post on the OS is next.

Telemarketing – The pain

Over the last two days I have had two calls from telemarketers selling life insurance and credit cards.

Call 1:

Caller: Sir, I am calling from ….Is this the right time to talk to you?
I: Regarding?
Caller: We are providing a life insurance policy
I: I am not interested
Caller: May I know the reason, sir?

Why on earth should I tell him why I am not interested in his product?

Call 2:

Caller: Sir, I am calling from… We are offering free credit cards.
I: I am not interested
Caller: Since you have a salary account with us, we are providing this card to you
I: How do you know that? In fact, I don’t have a salary account with you
Caller: But, your company has, sir
I: Yeah it does, but I don’t want the card
Caller: Sir, I suggest you go for the card, since it’s free (no annual charges)
I: I know all the credit cards these days are free for life
Caller: Sir, but why don’t you go for it?
I: I said I am not interested. Is that clear
Caller: (pause) ok. Sir (hangs up)

I do understand that the moment I purchased my cell phone number it has been sold to telemarketing companies. I registered myself with the DND registry twice but of no use. There is no where to go and say “Why don’t you stop this?”. But, guess what, these two calls were made to my office phone. What the heck? I tend to get annoyed when the caller insists even after I tell them that I am not interested.

To all the telemarketers – don’t waste others time by insisting they buy your product or service. If your product is worth its salt, then you would not need to persuade anyone to buy it.