Tag Archives: Computers

Email clients?

After overhearing a conversation at work about email clients, I couldn’t resist coming up with this πŸ™‚

Advertisements

‘shred’ your hard disk

When we buy a new computer or give away a hard drive to others or just trash our old computer, it is always a good idea to delete all the information stored on the hard disks. This is particularly important if the computer has been used for business purpose or storing critical personal data such as financial transactions or health records. Just formatting the disk does not help either. Data can still be recovered from a formatted disk. So we shred the data, just like we do with paper documents and files.

Shredding or wiping the disk basically means writing random data to the disk a few times so that the data previously held could not be recovered. The more times random data is written the more difficult it becomes to recover files. Each time random data is written is called a ‘pass’. The time taken to shred the disk depends on the size of the disk and the number of passes. Large disks with higher number of passes could take hours to complete.

There are several tools available to achieve this goal. Some paid, some free. One such free tool that is widely available is the ‘shred’ command in Linux. It is available in almost every distribution. I recently discovered this and put it to great use. Β I used GParted Live CD for this purpose. On booting up the Live CD on the target system, issue the command

shred -vfzn 5 /dev/sda1

Replace /dev/sda1 with the appropriate drive.
This is the simplest form of this command. Β Let use see what it does

shred – the command to shred
v – provides verbose output
f – force permission changes to allow overwriting
z – write zeros after final pass to mask shredding
n – number of passes to be made. If this option is not specified, three passes are made by default.

This is the result of the shred command on a test disk under virtual box.

shred command

'shred' command

The ‘shred’ command can also be used to securely delete individual files. For example

shred -vfz test.txt

There are few more options available for the ‘shred’ command which can be used to further tune how ‘shred’ works.

Mandriva Linux 2010 GNOME – Solid and Sweet

I had a quick look at the Mandriva Linux 2010 GNOME edition and it turned out to be great. Having used Mandriva Linux 2009 and 2009

Desktop

Mandriva Linux 2010 - GNOME Desktop

Spring GNOME, I was certain that this release is going to be as solid as stable as it ever was. The GNOME edition provides one of the best, stable desktop experiences. If KDE stands for innovation and glittering eye candy, GNOME is all about stability. It just gets out of your way when you work. Of course, you can also get all the eye candy by enabling Compiz. There is also new artwork in Steel blue and Mandriva has introduced a new Steel theme for the window decoration to go with it.

Here is a quick look at the other stuff.

Software

The 2010 release comes with the following software and more.

  • GNOME 2.28
  • Firefox 3.5.3
  • OpenOffice.org 3.1.1
  • GIMP
  • Empathy Instant Messenger

Pidgin has been left out in favour of Empathy. I am still not so comfortable using Empathy. Other than this, there are no other surprises. Mandriva’s control center is still the one stop shop for admin needs.

One problem I faced is that I could not install any Adobe AIR apps. They seemed to be failing and I was not sure why. This happened on the KDE edition as well and so nothing specific to the GNOME edition.

Conclusion

After running Mandriva Linux 2010 GNOME for a couple of days, I could say, Mandriva Linux 2010 GNOME edition is as stable as its predecessors with newer versions of popular software and makes a great desktop experience.

Screenshots

As usual, here are a few screenshots.

A quick look at Mandriva 2009.1 RC2

A few days ago, Mandriva released the RC2 version of Mandriva 2009.1. Release Candidates more or less contain the

Mandriva Logo

Mandriva Logo

final set of packages and I thought it was a good time to check what is contained in the new version which would eventually find its way to my laptop.

Mandriva 2009.1 RC2 can be downloaded from various mirrors listed in the wiki. I am a GNOME user and hence I downloaded the GNOME variant. I was also keen to see what the newer version of GNOME 2.26 offered.

First Impressions

The Live CD booted much faster than the previous versions. I did not time it but it was definitely faster. The boot

Mandriva Boot Screen

Mandriva Boot Screen

screen also revealed new artwork which I like better than the one in Mandriva 2009. Apart from the looks, the system was as stable as any other Mandriva release.

Software

  • Kernel: 2.6.29-desktop586-1mnb
  • GNOME 2.26.0
  • OpenOffice.org 3.0.1

In addition to the regular stuff like Firefox and Pidgin, Inkscape, Cheese and Kino are included by default.

Mandriva 2009.1 Desktop

Mandriva 2009.1 Desktop

Fixes

  • Printer config has been included in the Mandriva Control Center. It was a major oversight in the previous release and good to see that this has been fixed.

Misses

  • The Live CD, as if a tradition, does not shut down properly. This time the disc is ejected but the computer does not shut down.
  • Compiz Fusion did not work completely while using the Live CD. The window title bars were not visible but otherwise it looked ok.
  • Another major problem I noticed was Ctrl + Alt + Backspace did not restart X.

Evolution – Email Client

I was very keen to see how Evolution imported Microsoft Outlook PST files and it did a fairly good job. However, there was something odd about the way the imported emails were displayed. The mails were shown in plain text first and then as I scrolled down, the complete HTML version was available. I am not sure whether this is a bug or feature so I reserve comment.

The calendar items imported from the PST file were nicely placed in their respective time slots on the Evolution Calendar. They were still available as emails in one of the folder, the purpose of which I did not understand.

Neither of the above noted items are Mandriva’s fault, though.

Conclusion

Though there are a few glitches in the RC2, I hope Mandriva would fix those in time for the release and deliver a yet another solid release.

I just Slax’d my USB drive

After trying out Slax yesterday, I did the obvious. I wanted to carry it around with me and so I Slax’d (did I coin a new term? πŸ˜‰ ) my almost three year old Kingston Data Traveler 2GB drive. I emptied the drive contents on another drive and installed Slax on it.

I extracted the TAR ball to the drive and executed bootinst.sh but there was a problem with the installation. I moved the /boot and /slax directories to the root of the drive and then ran bootinst.sh and this time everything went well. I booted the Slax from its new home and voila I had an OS with the most necessary tools at my finger tips.

However, there were a few hiccups. I downloaded two modules, Firefox and Amarok. The modules came with warnings that they may not work properly but I still went ahead and installed both of them. Amarok refused to start but Firefox behaved well. I set the network IP as mine is a static IP and played around a while. I was really curious about the settings getting saved. So I rebooted with my USB drive again.

Firefox was nowhere to be found. Amarok would still not start. Well, these modules are add-ons and may not work well and I was indeed warned ahead. But what surprised me was the static IP, Subnet mask and Gateway addresses had disappeared leaving only the Primary DNS IP intact. I am not sure what is wrong but I am definitely going to investigate. I could live with Konqueror, if, I was only going to use Slax as a recovery/emergency OS but since I am planning to use it as a regular OS on my older computer, Firefox becomes a necessity. I also need a good music player and JuK by no stretch of imagination is comparable to Amarok.

I still have to try the other included programs. Will keep posting about my discoveries on Slax πŸ™‚

Disable beep during Shut Down/Restart on Mandriva 2009

My Mandriva One 2009 GNOME system gave out a rather annoying beep from the PC speaker whenever I clicked on Shut Down or Restart. The same behaviour was seen noticed when I press Backspace continuously in the Terminal while there was nothing to delete. Today I found out a solution for these problems.

Step 1: Disable alerts from Sound preferences dialog

Sound Preferences Dialog

Sound Preferences Dialog

1.1 Go to System > Preferences > Sound

1.2 Click on Sounds tab.

1.3 Uncheck both boxes titled “Play sound effects when buttons are clicked” and “Play alert sound“. After this, the dialog box would look something like this.

Step 2: Blacklist the PC Speaker

2.1 Open Terminal: Applications > Tools > Terminal

2.2 Login as root by typing “su –” and press enter. We add a “-” because we are going to launch a GUI app from the terminal.

2.3 Type the password and press enter

2.4 Type gedit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-compat and press enter. gedit would open the file

2.5 Go to the end of the file and add the following lines and save it.

# PC Speaker
blacklist pcspkr

The first line is a comment. Add whatever is appropriate so that it reminds why that entry has been made.

2.6 Reboot – The beep would be heard this time but would not be heard once the system restarts.

If there is a simpler way to do this, without fiddling with the config files, please leave a comment πŸ™‚

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.