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Happy New Year

The scraps have already started appearing on orkut and a few messages posted on my Wall on Facebook. It is only a few hours since I start moving towards the beach – where most of the town along with a few from all over the country and some foriegn tourists – for welcoming the new year, I thought I would write the last post for this year. A lot has happened this year – good and bad. I learnt a lot of new stuff, did somethings that I have never done and much more. At this point, I would like to thank my readers once again for all the support in the form of comments, hits :D, references etc.

Lets hope for a new year with lots of goodness, love, peace and prosperity. I am not going to make any new resolutions. I never made any resolutions ever. But I have a few wishes which I think I could make come true. A lot of good, useful posts here would be one among them 🙂

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

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Mandriva Linux One 2009 – Post Installation Impressions

After trying out the Mandriva One 2009 KDE Live CD, I have installed it on my laptop as my primary OS. The installation was a snap. It took less than 10 minutes to install the system. But after the login, there were a few things that did not work quite as expected.

1. There was no CD burner software installed. Yes, it is in the repos but how can something so basic be missing from the default install. What will a person without Internet access do?

2. MP4 movies did not play on either Dragon Player or Movie Player. This was expected, but they did not play well even after installing the codecs. Fortunately there was a mention about this in the errata and I could get things playing now.

3. The laptop screen brightness kept dipping every 5-10 minutes. This one was a real annoyance and was solved with help from the Mandriva Forum.

4. There was no notification when I used the volume controls placed in the front of my Dell Inspiron 6400. The volume actually reduces, but I have no idea to check the current volume using these buttons. The volume control in the system tray shows only the PCM volume. Can PCM and the Front volume be synced somehow as it is done in Ubuntu? [Update: I actually figured this out. Right click on the speaker icon from the system tray and click on Select Master Channel. Select Front and then click on OK. Now the speaker volume levels increase or decrease every couple of key presses. But not for every press]

5. I have to start kpowersave manually to get suspend work when I close the laptop lid.

6. One positive thing I noticed is Mandriva never crashed at any time. I never had to do a hard boot anytime in the past three days.

In the past three days I have been using Mandriva One 2009 KDE4 as my only OS and I am just evaluating whether I can use it for my regular day to day work as an average user. I have this whole week to decide and next Monday I would make the call.

Mandriva One 2009 – Kaptivating KDE

It has been a couple of days since the Mandriva team released Mandriva Linux 2009 in KDE and GNOME flavours. I decided to try Mandriva and see for myself how it has improved over Mandriva Linux 2008.1. So, I downloaded the One version based on the KDE desktop. The One version is a Live CD and helps to see how it all works without installing it on to the computer. So lets get started.

The test system is my year and half old Dell Inspiron powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 1.73 GHz. It is supported by a GB of RAM and the graphics support is provided by an Intel 945 GMA. It has bluetooth and an Intel 3945 a/b/g wireless chip. That is not really a cutting edge configuration but enough to get work done.

As for the Mandriva Live CD, the first thing it reveals is its new artwork. Blue is out and black is in. There are fine lines of various colours on a black background. Mandriva has moved to KDE 4 and this version packs KDE 4.1.2. Other goodies include Mozilla Firefox 3, OpenOffice.org 3.0, Amarok 2 SVN version. There is no Flash or Java support out of the box but MP3 files were played without any complaints.

This is how the desktop looks right after booting. Mandriva has chosen to use its La Ora theme for the controls and the window decoration than go with Oxygen. I think this is a good move. I personally like the window decoration to be distinct from the work area. There are some pretty themes for both the desktop as well for the Plasma engine. The wallpapers are pretty refreshing too.

I can easily say that this is one of the best KDE 4 distros out there. openSUSE has the KDE 4 desktop as default for a while now, but I should say that nothing comes close to the polish that one can see in Mandriva Linux 2009. The OS is a pleasure to use. Another area that has received more attention is the Mandriva Control Center and this is apparent from the new sleek design. Another important thing – Plasma is quite stable and crashed just once when I tried to change the wallpaper. Not sure what went wrong but at second attempt things worked as expected.

There are a few areas where things are still to be improved. For example, when I wanted to check the amount of free space in my hard drive, there was a question mark in the place where the drive icon should have been. I know, this is minor, but does not reflect well on a OS which not so long ago was considered the best linux distro out there for anyone to try. Icons were missing in a few other places as well.

I did not have a wireless network so I could not test that. I know this is really important but I just did not have a hotspot around to test. Another thing that did not work was the front audio control. This one is also quite important and I would like to know if there is any way to get it working. But that apart, almost all the other components worked. The display was set to the correct resolution at 1280 X 800.

Initially there were some redrawing issues, especially on the window decoration, but once I turned Compiz off, everything was smooth. I guessed that an Intel 945 GMA is not sufficient to run Compiz and Plasma together. I tried booting the CD on my brother’s fairly recent desktop powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 processor with 2 GB RAM and an Nvidia 9500 GT with 512 MB RAM. The same issue was visible. However, I tried to boot with the CD again and this time there was no such problem. I am not sure what is wrong.

My conclusion is I am going to install this as dual boot with my current OS and try using it for a while and then decide which is the one OS that I am going to retain for daily use. I have got used to GNOME apps and I may be critical of some KDE apps. I would just like to tell everyone that I started with KDE with Red Hat but have come to like GNOME. I am not going to start a flame war here but Mandriva 2009 has made KDE 4 Kaptivating enough for new users. I sincerely wish Mandriva goes back to be one of the best Linux distros for anyone wanting to use it.

I have a bunch of screenshots here. So let me know what you think.

How to install AWN on Ubuntu Hardy Heron

Though this is a topic that is widely documented, this is one of the searches that land people on this blog. So I thought it is only logical that I write a post on how to install Avant Window Navigator aka AWN on Ubuntu Hardy Heron. I would just stick to this version and keep the post simple.

Step 1: Add the repositories

Go to System > Administration > Software Sources.

Enter your password when prompted.

Click on the tab named Third Party Software Click the Add button

Software Sources

Software Sources

Add the below lines one at a time, clicking the Add Source button after each line

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/awn-testing/ubuntu hardy main
deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/awn-testing/ubuntu hardy main

Click Close button

Click Reload button on the new window that pops up and wait until the update is complete. Once this is complete, the Software Sources window would close on its own.

Step 2: Install AWN

Go to Applications > Accessories > Terminal and type

sudo apt-get install awn-manager-trunk awn-extras-applets-trunk

Press ‘Y’ to confirm the installation

Step 3: Enjoy using AWN

Once the installation is complete, go to Applications > Accessories > Avant Window Navigator. The dock would start at the bottom of the screen. So you would have to remove the panel there (if you still have it there 😉 ) and move the items elsewhere.

You can drag and drop any program from its menu. For example, if you want to add Firefox to AWN, go to Applications > Internet > Firefox Web Browser and drag it to AWN and drop it once a “+” would appears on the cursor.

You can also install or change themes from the AWN preferences. To access preferences either right click on AWN and select Dock Preferences or go to System > Preferences > Awn Manager

References:

1. AWN Wiki

2. Softpedia – With tips to install cool plugins

Disks from a bygone era

While I was shifting my house, I remembered that I had some CDs from the days when the Internet was starting to boom. Here is a photo. Pardon the photo quality as I had to use a cell phone camera.

Disks from a bygone era

Disks from a bygone era

I saw a CD for the first time in my life in 1995 when I was in Class 7. It took me three more years to actually pop it in, into a friends PC and see what it contained.

The photo below contains three CDs one each from 1995, 1996 and 1997. These are from the Indian IT magazine PC Quest which started distributing CDs every quarter at the time when little was known about computers or CDs in the country.

1. The earliest one is from 1995. It contained fully functional demos of OS/2 Warp and PC DOS 7 neither of which I could try. OS/2 required 30, 1.44 MB, 3.5″ floppy disks or a fresh hard drive to install and I could afford neither at that time. Compare that to the multiple DVDs that pack a single software or a game today.

2. The one in yellow and black is from 1996. It contained Netscape Navigator 3 as the star product along with demos of AutoCAD and 3DS Max and some localized software from India’s CDAC

3. The last one is from 1997. Though I don’t remember what multimedia and graphics it contained, the star attraction is MSIE 4. In about 10 years, IE has only increased by 3 versions (leaving out the IE8 beta)

We have come a long way since then. But nostalgia strikes hard when I look at stuff like this. I even have a couple of 5.25″ floppy disks, but could not get a chance to click a photo of them.

Adobe Buzzword

I have up to Adobe’s new Buzzword – Adobe’s new flash based online word processor and a suite of related applications. It comprises of

  • Buzzword – A word processor
  • ConnectNow – Free online meeting spaces
  • Create PDF – Create up to 5 PDF documents
  • Share – A easy way to share files
  • MyFiles – An online storage area for files.

    On a first look it gave me the impression that it would compete with Google Docs. But it has no spreadsheet or presentation capabilities right now. But the ConnectNow, the online meeting space is a killer feature for people who need to have meetings from different locations. The other applications are rather self explanatory.

    Buzzword

    Buzzword is flash based and provides a clean interface in black. The toolbars slide on top of each other taking up as little space as possible but requiring more clicks to access a particular feature. All the basic features like text formatting with fonts and colours, paragraph formatting, list and bullets, inserting images, tables, comments, headers and footers, end notes, spell checking, importing documents and versions are supported. The spell checker works in the background and lists the number of wrongly spelled words which can then be corrected.

    Documents can be exported as PDF, Word Document in doc, 2003 XML and docx formats, HTML, HTML zipped, RTF, Text formats. No support for ODT format yet. But this available in Google Docs and Zoho Writer. Zoho Writer also allows exporting in formats like LaTex and Star Office SXW format.

    Other Applications

    I did not try the other applications yet. So once I am done with them I will post. Also I would like to see which among Zoho Writer, Google Docs and Adobe Buzzword has the most and the best features.

    Conclusion

    Adobe is late to the party and has a lot of catching up to do. But Buzzword is a perfectly usable application. If they continue to improve it by adding additional features it could certainly become a worthy competitor to Google Docs and Zoho Writer

    Screenshot

    Adobe Buzzword

    Flowers

    Here is something non technical 😉 . Today, I got some spare time and I tried to take a couple of macro shots of the flowers in my home garden. Here we go…

    1. Tabernaemontana heyneana

    Tabernaemontana heyneana

    2. Crossandra infundibuliformis

    Crossandra infundibuliformis

    3. Crossandra infundibuliformis

    Crossandra infundibuliformis

    I will try to get some more shots in the coming days.