Author Archives: admin

Perl Script

Sometimes, when you need to get somethings done, the most simple of the scripts can do the job much better than hefty softwares out there.

I like to keep a mirror of laptop hard disk on a portable hard disk for safe keeping and also while traveling. And there is a perfect script to do just that
I do not need to carry a bulky hardware with me and when I do need a file, I simply plug my drive into a Netbook and see replica of what I have on my main computer in the drive.

Installing dLink DWA 525 Linux Drivers

If you are upgrading your desktop PCI wifi cards to faster N series Dlink cards, you will be in for a bit of surprise. The drivers provided by Dlink are still in alpha (for DWA 525 series) and are not natively supported in most Linux distributions.
So if you face this conundrum, here is a simple solution (Thanks to Aftab and Umar for providing the steps).
  • First download the drivers for Dlink DWA-525 wifi card from the following link:
  • Unzip the downloaded file into a directory
  • cd into the newly unzipped directory
  • type the following commands
    • make
    • sudo make install
  • Now edit the following file
    • vi  /etc/modeprob.d/blacklist.conf
  • Append the following line at the end of the file
    • blacklist rt2800pci
  • And now reboot the machine
    • sudo reboot
Your newly installed wifi card should now be working just fine. Enjoy surfing at 150mbps (theoretically) 🙂

Ubuntu Manual – A Great Addition and Must for Beginners


I must say, we have been pleasantly surprised at the content and quality of the manual developed by the community for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. These past few days, we have had the opportunity to share it with non-techies and people new to Linux. To our great satisfaction and delight, they not only found the manual extremely easy to follow but were able to do most of the tasks (including installation) without anyone’s help.Ubuntu itself is probably the most intuitive Linux distribution out there. But the manual is a great addition, making adoption of Linux even more easy. The document is divided into 9 distinct chapters that deal with its installation, the desktop environment, security, hardware and software management.  There are even some advanced topics on how to use command line interface to accomplish tasks the traditional way, among others. It even has a chapter on how to use Word, Spreadsheets, web browser, Instant Messaging, including Twitter making it easy for people to migrate to Ubuntu without any glitch.

The documentation is well supported by clear and extremely helpful screen shots of various Ubuntu features, that visually guide the user through many cumbersome tasks. This makes life easy for someone who has never used Ubuntu or Linux before. Considering that it is a community driven project, it is a remarkable achievement and will go a long way in making Linux in general and Ubuntu in particular get mainstream acceptance. We for one are recommending it to anyone who wants to migrate/move to Linux and is unsure of where to begin.

If you prefer to get a printed version of the manual, you can get it through Lulu otherwise, the electronic version in PDF can be downloaded free of cost from Ubuntu Manual Website.

Ubuntu 10.04 is Awesome!

Whenever Apple releases a new gadget, there are scores of people lined up in front of their stores, sometimes for days, just to be the first ones to get their hands onto the next cool gadget. On April 29, thousands of Linux aficionados were glued to their computer screens patiently waiting for Ubuntu to release their latest Linux. And the new 10.04 aptly named Lucid Lynx, was released with much fanfare on schedule with blogosphere covering its launch like traditional media covered the iPad release. We too were among the millions downloading it the moment it was available and giving it a try on our PCs. After tinkering with it for an hour, we were convinced, it is now the most superb OS available in the market.
Over the past two years, since the release of Ubuntu 8.04, the Operating system has matured at a very high pace. Today, it is no longer a hobbiest tool nor just a tool for geeks to tinker with in their basements, it is now a mainstream player which can hold its own in front of Apple’s MacOS X and Microsoft’s Windows.Times have changed as well. Today, Dell, Toshiba, Intel, HP and other major hardware vendors are supporting Linux for their devices. If you buy a computer be it a laptop, netbook or a desktop, it will run Linux perfectly well out of the box. To give you an example, I hooked up an HP P1005 laser printer to my 10.04. It not only recognised it immediately, without me needing to install any additional drivers, but also got me the official HP software to manage the printer.

There are many advantages of moving to Ubuntu over other operating Systems. Here are some of my favourite reasons:

  1. It is totally free: No cost for life including upgrades. Every six months, Ubuntu comes out with a major upgrade and all of them are totally free.
  2. Runs on any hardware: Unlike Microsoft and Apple machines, it does not require any specific highend hardware requirements. Even a computer with 256MB of RAM and 5GB of free disk space can easily run Linux. Try doing that with any other OS and you will see your hardware stall.
  3. Free Software Catalog: There is a built in catalog of over 25,000 free softwares to install. No CD/DVD needed. Just choose what you want and get it installed over the Internet. For example, a music player, a mail reader, or chatting software. It not only lets you choose the software, but also automatically installs if for you. And if any software requires certain other software then it will get it automatically for you. Hence, it does not crash like other OS when it does not find what it wants.
  4. Automatic Updates: On a regular basis, Ubuntu will prompt you to update the Operating System with new updates. All one has to do is click a few buttons and it will happen automatically. In fact, Ubuntu will also support all future upgrades totally free through this interface. So no need to reinstall the OS as it will happen automatically.
  5. Office suite: Openoffice is really popular openoffice application developed by Sun Microsystems now Oracle. But it is not the only one. There are similar office applications from IBM (Lotus Symphony) among others to choose from. And all of them are backward compatible with Microsoft Office. No one will ever feel the difference between the documents created using OpenOffice or Microsoft. I personally have been using it as defacto software for over five years. Not once has someone ever complained that they could not read any document that I have created or shared with them. Sun/Oracle and IBM are companies that are as big as Microsoft. The office suite that they produce are well supported and work wonderfully well. Therefore, qualms that it is not as good as Microsoft Office are but a Myth.
  6. Web Browsers: You get Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox working fine on Ubuntu. These are currently two of the most popular browsers available and are easily available here. So surfing the web and doing chores online will always be a breeze.
  7. Messengers: I installed Skype without any issues and Pidgin messenger software. Using Pidgin I can use all major messengers including MSN, YahooIM, GoogleTalk among others. In fact, now I am easily able to manage all my chats through one software.
  8. Mail Client: You can use Mozilla Thunderbird or Novell’s Evolution. Both do a perfect job. However, if you are like me and use webmail, then Mozilla Prism is perfect. It turns my webmail into deskmail. Try it and you will not regret it.
  9. File sharing: You can seamlessly share files between Windows and Linux machines using Samba and other available tools. This makes Linux machine part of the network that you have at home or in offices.
  10. Side by Side Installation: Yes, you can run it with ease with your Windows Operating Systems. Simply follow the instructions and it will make your machine dual boot. Linux and Windows. This will give you the best of both worlds.
In the coming years, Linux will no longer be a novelty used by the few. It will gain immence momentum and the mainstream will embrace it. Many hardware vendors will pre-install it with their systems for users to use right out of the box. Linux is already prevalent on the mobile platform and is making good inroads onto netbooks. Android and WebOS are just two popular examples of Linux customized to run on your Google and Palm phones. Even Google’s much anticipated ChromeOS is based on Linux for the netbooks.

My advice is to give it a try and install it on your system. Once you go Linux, you will not go back to Windows.

The Future of iPhone – Unlocked and Unleashed Worldwide

Later this year, Apple will unveil a major upgrade to their game changing iPhone. One of the new upgrades will definitely be moving it to their own A4 chipset using the long anticipated iPhoneOS version 4. Thus enabling  iPhone to play apps faster and most importantly, the ability to multi-task. Something that Android and Palm Pre devices already do pretty well but iPhone still lags behind. However, the most revolutionary factor would be in the pricing structure and its relationship with carriers. In short, iPhone will most likely be available unlocked and uncarrier bound.
With the launch of iPad, Apple has indicated its desire to sell its hardware unlocked and non-carrier bound. This is just the beginning as more and more devices will follow the same pattern.
While its relationship with AT&T and other international carriers has been highly successful in selling millions of cellphones worldwide, it has also created a major problem for its apps developers (and itself) in the form of jailbroken iPhones. Apple and probably AT&T did make some money on the jailbroken devices (hardware and cellphone contract sales), but at the same time, it has suffered an estimated US$450 million in revenue losses (from unpaid downloaded apps). This is only because jailbroken devices, are able to download iPhone Apps without the need to pay for them.
Earlier in January 2010, Google launched its NexusOne device unlocked and right off their website. No carrier or any shop necessary for purchase. The phone was also made simultaneously available through T-mobile with a two year contract at a reduced price. Among many reasons to adopt this methodology was for Google  to discourage hackers in breaking android operating system and then messing around with the OS. When the phone is already unlocked no one will need a reason to break it. Apple will most likely follow the same path. While its relationship with AT&T will continue but consumers will have an option of picking an iPhone right off the Apple Store; unlocked and ready to use with any carrier in the world. Of course, AT&T locked phone will still be cheaper than the unlocked version.
This move will go a long way in strengthening Apple’s outreach to more places/countries worldwide to sell their content. They will no longer be bound by the reach of the (partner) carriers to sell devices. In short, the whole world will become their playing field. And the more Apple devices people choose to own, the more they are likely to buy content from Apple directly. Another advantage for Apple will be that the unlocked variety will finally discourage hackers from jailbreaking their devices, which in turn would be boon for Apple, as it will bring in more revenues in legitimate app store sales. And once the hacker community becomes irrelevant, maybe Enterprise apps will find their way into the iPhone platform. Currently, hacked/jailbroken phones are a cause of concern for many enterprise apps and hence, are not offering as many functionality as expected. Once this hole is taken care of, enterprise class applications will become popular on this platform, thus making Apple king of the corporate world as well.
Apple’s iPad stellar launch, earlier this week confirmed many of the rumors going around about the future of Apple. Steve Jobs is now on a path to take Apple beyond IT realm of nifty niche products to the world’s largest content controlling and distribution conglomerate. To achieve those goals, they now have the software (iTunes, App Store), the hardware (A4 chips powering iPad for now but soon iPhones, MacBooks and iMacs), the users (over 50 million just on iPod Touch and iPhone worldwide) and now the content (thousands of songs, games, movies and apps). With iBooks now Apple will control almost all major media contents out there.

Google Chrome for Linux is Out and we think it is Superb

Chrome for Linux is truly a superb product. Not only does it render the pages faster, as claimed by Google, but it is fast. This is interesting news for Firefox as so far on Linux it dominated the browser market share with Opera coming in a distant second. However, all that changes with Chrome with its nifty features making a home on all major Linux distributions.

It does seem to consume a bit more memory than Firefox (when the same set of websites are open) but since Linux itself does not consume a lot of memory, we have enough spare out there for it to use.

Firefox still has an edge when it comes to customized add-ons and extensions. Chrome does have a gallery of some impressive extensions but not as comprehensive a list as Firefox. So those, like me, who rely on those extensions for many tasks, will still take a while to switch to Chrome as default browser.

Even though it is still in beta, it is turning out to be a cool Internet user experience.

Turn your Linux machine into a PDF printer

Do you want to have a PDF print driver on your Linux machine? Then follow the instructions listed below.

Usually more popular open source applications, for example, OpenOffice, have a built in feature to print directly to PDF. However, some applications like web browser (Firefox etc) may not be able to do it by default and need a pdf printer utility. Here is how one can get it installed.

  • Fire up a Terminal (command line prompt) or SSH for remote access onto your linux system
  • From your linux archive, install the CUPS for PDF from the archive. CUPS, as you all are familiar with, is the most user friendly open source printing system developed by Apple for MacOS X and Unix/Linux operating systems.
  • sudo apt-get install cups-pdf
  • Next go to your home directory (/home/your_username/) and create a folder called “PDF”
  • cd /home/your_username
  • mkdir PDF
  • Now restart your cups service
  • sudo /etc/init.d/cupsys restart

You are done! Whatever you print will by default be sent to the PDF folder on your home directory.

Stellarium – Planetarium for the Masses

Some softwares are just too fun to be let go off and this weekend I discovered Stellarium, a free, open source planetarium software that shows a “realistic sky in 3D”. Stellarium is designed from ground up as a simple, easy to use, open source software to observe and learn about the breath taking beauty of the night sky.

This weekend, I happened to be visiting a village in rural Mardan, Pakistan (where we are supporting a rural Tele-healthcare project). The electricity in this remote part of the world is patchy and highly unreliable. Mardan District is composed primarily of a farming community and little or no industry and technology in this rural part of Pakistan. Hence, the night sky is not only clear but dazzles with the beauty of billions of stars. In fact, on a clear night, one can see the Milky way all across the night sky.

Tonight was just one such nights, when the electricity, went out, the night sky lit up brightly with its displaying its full array of stars. The moon was at half crescent and thus it blurred a bit of dim stars out there, but over all, it was a feast for the eyes.

The software asks you to select your city through its fairly simple configuration file. And if your hometown is missing (in my case Mardan was not there), one can enter the basic information like the Latitude, Longitude and height in meters above sea level and the software then automatically sets itself to the night sky in your area. It then slowly tracks the night sky as it changes with time so that the observer is always objects slowly rise and set over the night sky.

I trained my Stellarium on the planets first. Tonight, Saturn was visible in the night sky. With the help of a basic compass and the Stellarium software, I was able to pin-point the magnificent planet Saturn with some fairly good accuracy. This was the first time I had identified any night sky object with accuracy. And the best part was that I did not have to know a lot about Astronomy nor the need to have complicated equipment. The software is designed to be easily operated by a kid as well and requires little or no prior knowledge of Astronomy. All night, I would simply find something interesting on Stellarium and then using the provided grids, a hand held compass and using other known stars as references, would get to the desired object.

One can zoom in and out of the objects (planets, nebulae, etc) and some of them do have fairly detailed images and information associated with them. If any detail is missing, one can always download it from their website and add it to the catalog. For example, if I would find something of interest in the night sky, I could get basic information including a detailed image of the object. Here in this image on the right, I got to see how Butterfly cluster looks like at close proximity and how far away it is from earth. For example, Saturn here is reported to be 8.5AU (Astronomical Units). 1 AU is equal to approximately 149.5 Million KM or in simple terms, 1AU is equal to the average distance between the earth and sun. Hence, Saturn is approximately 8.5 times farther from earth than the Sun from us. That is approximately 1.2 billion KM from earth.

The software has many cool features, including red eye mode to assist eyes remain adjusted to darkness. An essential requirement if we want to truly observe dim and distant objects with ease. Stellarium has many features but some of the fascinating ones are listed below:

  • Default catalog of over 600,000 stars
  • Extra catalog with more than 210 million stars (easily downloadable through the Stellarium website). The additional data is divided into further four separate files totaling around 1Giga Byte.
  • Images of nebulae (full Messier catalog)
  • Realistic Milky Way
  • The planets and their satellites (yep, even details of moons for the planets)
  • And many more

The joy was short lived as the power was restored later in the night. With the light pollution dimming many of the stellar objects in the night sky. However, this unexpected power outage has inspired me to spend the coming summer gazing at night sky with some basic telescope and track numerous objects in the night sky.

There is also a method to link the software with your telescope (if it supports computer tracking) which one can read online for more information.

The software can be easily downloaded for MacOS, Windows and Linux platforms. It is also available through Ubuntu repository of pre-compiled software packages.

Openmoko Mobile Freedom

There exist a lot of devices considering Linux phones but they missed the point of Linux; to be open. Openmoko forced the mobile industry to switch gears to open source with a truly open phone, the OpenMoko. It stands for Open Mobile Kommunikation. “Kommunikation” is German and means “communication”.

What is Openmoko platform?

OpenMoko is actually supposed to be the world’s first integrated Open Source Mobile Communications Platform and it was announced by OpenMoko’s Product Manager Sean Moss-Pultz at Informa’s “Open Source in Mobile” conference in Amsterdam on 7 November, 2006. The project covers two main areas; hardware devices design and engineering software development. The mission of the project is to “free your phone” by allowing users to add and modify the software to their needs. Moreover, the platform also allows adding new hardware components. In short it offers full access to the phone capabilities.

As reported by Inquirer

This is the first phone in a long time to get us really interested in what it is, what it isn’t, and the philosophy behind it. The philosophy is the thing that makes Linux great, and not in the sense of window-dressing or half-hearted openness, it is really open. It runs the latest kernel, 2.6.24 and you can get software from a repository with apt-get.

The OpenMoko is meant to be a fully mobile Linux machine that happens to look like a phone. The point is simple, where others have a Linux kernel with a locked proprietary stack on top of it, this one is open, top to bottom. You can use your own tools on it, compile your own kernel. and bang on the bare metal if you are into that sort of thing. Everything barring a few small drivers is GPL’ed.

Openmoko devices have no vendor lock except for the radio and GPS components as we can’t change the drivers but they are fully documented too. The GSM modem allowed to test similar set of AT commands. If you like the software they include, great, use it, tweak it and have fun. If not, write your own as hackers have develoeped a number of OpenMoko distribution.

Available Hardware

Openmoko hardware aspires to the term open source hardware as the company unveiled block diagrams of the hardware, the connections between the chips, JTAG interface, etc as well as CAD data of the product.[1][2][3]

OpenMoko released two different devices so far as listed hereunder:-

  1. A preliminary developer preview, the Neo 1973 Codename GTA01(Released July 2007)
  2. The current stable device, the Neo FreeRunner Codename GTA02 (Released July 2008)

3D image

Hardware Specifications

The hardware itself is a Samsung 500MHz ARM9 with a high resolution touch screen 2.84” 480×640 pixels VGA. There are only two buttons on the phone, the rest is handled by the touch screen, Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11 b/g WiFi, 2 * 3D accelerometers and USB for connectivity and charging. It comes with 128MB of DRAM and 256 MB integrated flash memory (expandable with microSD). It comes with a 12mw battery with three hours of talk time. It also has a GPS, TI quad band GSM, GPRS. The only thing lacking is camera and that is planned for the next gen hardware.

Software Framework

Harald (a core developer of OpenMoko) explains OpenMoko’s software architecture as:

OpenMoko really is about Free Software from the bottom to the top of the software stack (no binary-only kernel modules, no binary-only GSM communication libraries, no proprietary libraries, no pre-installed proprietary userspace applications). So this aspect of freedom is the main product design principle.

OpenMoko Linux uses Linux as its OS kernel and employs X11 and GTK as its window systems. thus source code is available for studying, modifying, recompiling or re-distributing. For a complete list of software components

Intended audience

The Openmoko project is still a “work in progress”

  • Linux users
  • Software developers
  • And ultimately, general consumers (the project is not there yet)

Why to go for Openmoko platform?

This phone could very well be a hacker’s paradise. There is a full package manager, so if you want a web server, go get Apache. If you want mapping software for the GPS, you type apt-get and off you go. Games? Sure. Services? Sure.

As an end user, the appeal is obvious, and I don’t just mean a quad band GPS phone with tons of accessories and a GPS for $350. It is open and not locked down; you can make it your own and get what you want. Instead of the carriers dictating, they can offer, and if they are the best, they will get your money. If not, you can choose another repository and off you go.

Completely open software stack based on Linux
Only hardware components with open API are part of the devices
The complete specs and the CAD files for of the devices were released under a CC license
The hardware engineering process is openly discussed in the project’s mailing lists and wiki pages
The community is largely involved in the software development and good communication was established over different online collaboration tools

Platform of choice for:

• FOSS embedded development
• Supports virtually any available software technology from the “Linux world”
• Advanced hardware capabilities
• Embedded system integration
• Available hardware specifications enable easy modifications
• OM is not a phone, it’s a portable Linux computer that just happen to have phoning capabilities

Openoko and Pakistan

NUST School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science SEECS is the proud owner of OpenMoko kits. SEECS is the first institute who has shipped these phone. They have create a research group titled “SEECS Open Mobile Squad” – SOMS and an Open mobile lab to carry out innovation and creativity in this emerging field. Cogilent solutions is the supporting part of SOMS.

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Ubuntu 9.04 Linux Beta Released

This week, Ubuntu 9.04 beta was released for general public. By the last week of April, the final release will be available for download for Ubuntu 9.04 Linux distribution.

Ubuntu is slowly gaining ground not only on the desktop but also beginning to flex its muscles on the server side as well. It is now taking on the SUSE and Red Hats of the world for its own pie in the sky. There are many great features unique to Ubuntu for corporations including:

  • It has a regular release cycle (April and October annually) and the product is supported for three years. This gives organizations the ability to install and maintain a release for almost the length of the PC/laptop that they are using without the need to reinstall.
  • It also supports easy upgrades from one version to the other, which some distributions struggle to do nicely. This once again gives users the ability to seamlessly move from one version to the other without needing to redo the whole install.
  • Numerous versions to whet ones apetite. There is the regular Ubuntu (with gnome desktop) and then Kubuntu (with KDE), then Xubuntu (for older systems) and Edubuntu (for educational purposes).
  • There are also numerous distributions based on Ubuntu, namely Mythbuntu (an open source Tivo to say the least). Even XenStreet’s favorite Linux, gOS relies on Ubuntu to function.
  • A huge repository (over 25,000 in default configuration) of applications which come pre-compiled and ready to use on Ubuntu through packages.
  • Available on Amazon EC2 cloud computing. But I guess many other Linux and Windows versions are too. But still, it is out there.
  • It is a Debian release!

The latest release 9.04 is packed with lots of new features that will further strengthen its hold in the Linux market. Some of the most interesting features that the new release will feature on the server includes the open source cloud technology, Eucalyptus. It will give us techies a chance to build a cloud in our office (there goes another weekend), and then we will try to find some application to use it. Maybe a gaming cloud for the office. Hmm.

It also includes out of the box and fully configured dovecot-postfix package. It provides an easy-to-deploy mail server stack, with support for SMTP, POP3, and IMAP with TLS and SASL.

There is also support for ext4 file system. Not sure we need this but it is supposed to help protect files when the system suffers from sudden outages. A nice feature for developing economies like India, Pakistan and China where electricity is as reliable as the weather in England.

The desktop edition will feature an updated Gnome for better desktop experience and updated Xorg library with (hopefully) better support for wide screen monitors, graphics drivers and S-video interfaces.

If you ask my opinion which Linux flavor will dominate the Linux distros for the next few years, then my vote is hands down for Ubuntu.