Circlingthesun

Round and round.

Killing Time

One or two weeks ago I finished my Honours Degree in Computer Science. Yay for me. Finishing brought a short lived sense of relief, followed by a great sense of futility. I choose to continue with Masters next year so I have some time to kill until then.

Saturday I was sitting around wondering what to do with my day. It was sunny outside with a moderate south easterly wind blowing, as is common in Cape Town at this time of year. I had just started running again that week after spending most of the year in front of a computer screen. I decided to open up Google Earth and map out a new run. I’ve been wanting to go for a run in the Durbanville Wine Valley, so mapped a one that ended up being 31km.

I was by no means very fit, but figured that if I just kept the pace down and stopped for regular breathers, I would be fine. I had nothing better to do so I gave it a shot.

The run was quite fun, at least until the hill at the top of Vissers Hok road after about 20km. The wind had gotten rather strong and was howling from the top down at me. Running up would have been rather unpleasant so I walked. Things got easier on the other side, but I could feel my muscles staring to burn.

On the way down I got an incredible craving for cold beer. I realized that the bottle store was about to close. I had one hour to cover 10km if I wanted to make it back in time. It seemed unlikely, but I was hopeful. I got home 5 minutes too late. I did however still have some cider left over from my birthday braai, so that went down pretty well. Thanks Lawrence :)

I’ve done squat for the past two days now. My legs are still a tiny bit stiff. I’m feeling quite optimistic about my running endurance, so I’ve plotted a 25km route to Blaauwberg beach that I might do tomorrow. My buddy Jaco has kindly agreed to drive me back home after. It should be a pretty sweet run :)

Installing Diaspora Preview on Ubuntu 10.04

The much anticipated Diaspora source code was released earlier this week. I followed the instruction at http://github.com/diaspora/diaspora but encountered the following error when installing bundler.

ERROR:  Error installing bundler:

bundler requires RubyGems version >= 1.3.6

It appears that there was a slight problem with the RubyGems PPA on the instruction page.

To install diaspora open a terminal, navigate to the desired installation directory and execute:

echo “deb http://downloads.mongodb.org/distros/ubuntu 10.4 10gen” | sudo tee -a /etc/apt/sources.list

sudo apt-key adv –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com –recv 7F0CEB10

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install build-essential libxslt1.1 libxslt1-dev libxml2 ruby-full mongodb-stable imagemagick libmagick9-dev git-core

wget http://rubyforge.org/frs/download.php/69365/rubygems-1.3.6.tgz

tar -zxvf rubygems-1.3.6.tgz

cd rubygems-1.3.6

sudo ruby setup.rb

cd ..

rm -r rubygems-1.3.6

sudo gem install bundler

git clone http://github.com/diaspora/diaspora.git

cd diaspora

bundle install

To start diaspora first make sure MongoDB is running:

sudo service mongodb start

Then execute:

bundle exec thin start

Once the Diaspora service has started it should see:

Using rack adapter

Thin web server (v1.2.7 codename No Hup)

Maximum connections set to 1024

Listening on 0.0.0.0:3000, CTRL+C to stop

Now open your favorite browser and navigate to http://localhost:3000 or http://[machine name]:3000

Thats it. You are now running you very own Diaspora seed.

Guake Drop Down Terminal

I’ve been using the drop down terminal Guake for some years now. It has become an indispensable tool that I cannot imagine being without. Today while working on some code I was asked what terminal program it is that I was using . The guy was very impressed after I explained it to him. Later I was taken by surprise as a friend of mine (also a coder and seasoned linux user) was also unfamiliar with the concept of a drop down terminal and Guake. I had assumed that most linux coders or system admins where familiar with the likes or Guake, Yakuake and other drop down terninals.

Drop down terminals were originally inspired by in game consoles like ones found in first person shooters like Counterstrike and Quake. Yes, Guake is just Quake starting with a ‘g’ instead of an ‘q’. Drop down terminals run in the background and can generally be toggled on and off by pressing one of the function keys (F12 by default in Guake). This simplifies life for people that make regular or sporadic use of the command line. Instead of starting a new terminal window or navigating to a currently open one, you can toggle the terminal on, execute the necessary commands, and have it out of your way again by just hitting one key. It really simplifies tasks like compiling code while working on a project and routine administration tasks.

If you are an Ubuntu or Debian user you can pull Guake from the repos with:

sudo apt-get install guake

Alternatively you can visit http://guake.org/. Guake is Python based and requires GTK.  KDE users might want to look into Yakuake.

Xournal

Over the holiday I did some work on a small research project. Whilst passing proposals and drafts around  I discovered Xournal. Xournal allows you to annotate PDFs by drawing, typing or highlighting. Its really dandy for making notes while reading whatever you have in PDF. Xournal also saves back to PDF.

Xournal

My Roof Is Leaky

Also my car. I’ve managed to move the leak in the roof by sticking some gladwrap to the ceiling. The rain now spills on the carpet instead of my desk. It’s mid November. Why is it raining? Climate change? Apparently that might me a lie. I read a somewhere that even if it is a lie then doing something about it wont hurt so much as doing nothing if turns out to be true.

I really shouldn’t be complaining about the weather. Last week I was yapping about how I wanted rain because it was to hot to study. I can’t sleep. I’m going to have put in some extra work tomorrow. Today has been way to lazy.

Stream Audio Wirelessly to Your Desktop Speakers With Karmic Koala

Some of you might not be aware Karmic comes packed with a brand new version of PulseAudio that has some pretty neat new features built in. Amongst these is support for Apple AirTunes which is a protocol that allows you to stream audio to remote devices over a network. I’ve been using it to stream music wirelessly to my slightly louder desktop sound system while chilling on the couch with my netbook. You could potentially wire up your entire house and then DJ wirelessly from the loo. Below I will show how to do just that without having to touch the terminal.

Firstly you’ll need two computers with Ubuntu 9.10 installed. Both of these need to be connected to some kind of home or office network. In my case this is my desktop PC hooked up via Ethernet and my netbook which is on the same LAN via WiFi. Once you have this kind of setup the rest is pretty simple.

Next you need to install PulseAudio Device Chooser on both machines. The easiest way to do this is to open up Ubuntu Software Center which is under the applications menu. Start typing “pulseaudio device chooser” into the search box and it will pop up. Once installed, launch PulseAudio Device Chooser which is now under the Sound & Video section in the Applications menu. This wont bring up a new window but will add a new icon to the notification area at the top of your screen.

Now, on the machine with the nicest speakers attached to it do the following. Click on the icon in the notification area that looks like a headphone jack. This brings up a menu. Select “Configure Local Sound Server…”. In the new window that will pop up go to the “Network Server” tab and tick the boxes as shown below:

server

Do the same on the machine that you want to play audio from but instead of going to the “Network Server” tab, select the “Network Access” tab and tick the boxes like so:

client

All that remains now is to set the machine you want to stream audio from to use the remote computer’s speakers instead of it’s own. Again, bring up the device chooser menu by clicking on the headphone jack icon. At the top of the menu you will see a submenu titled “Default Server”. This is where you should now see your remote system listed right at the top and should look something like “joe@hostname”. Click it and you are done. All audio played will now be blaring through the other computers sound system.

done

Edit: Apparently AirTunes has nothing to do with what I’m explaining here.

Significant Improvements in Ubuntu 9.10

I recently installed the beta version of the upcoming version of Ubuntu codenamed Karmic Kuala. The changes since 9.04 are somewhat subtle yet significant. Already in the beta you can feel the polish that went into it. Below, in no particular order, I shall rant about a few improvements that puts a smile on my face.

For one, the boot sequence has been completely revamped. Ubuntu now using a new X based splash screen that allows users to see way prettier graphics while they wait for their machine to come to life. The boot also seems more snappy so you wont have to look at progress bars for to long. Once the OS has loaded you are greeted with the new GDM login manager which has also been prettified. Overall the boot feels much smoother and should comfort the novice user when he or she boots into this strange new environment for the first time.

Sadly, the current default theme is yet another version of the same old brown crap we have seen countless times. Yet there is hope. As far as I know the final theme has not yet been chosen and if you install the community themes package there is this little beaut called Hanso. Hanso is another brown theme, but not the kind of shitty brown we have come to expect from Canonical. Think more along the lines of rich mahogany, something luxurious with an exclusive feel to it. Along with its shiny new icon set called Breathe, this theme is one that you wont have to be ashamed of when demoing a live cd to a new user. Frankly I think good first impressions are imperative. It doesn’t help explaining to a new user that the atrocity they had just witnessed is just the default theme and they can change any time. At that point the person has already made up his or her mind and will be running for the hills.

Enough about that. There is also a brand new Ubuntu Software Center which is reminiscent of the Apple App Store which I have never seen or used. Although it is really basic at this stage, it looks promising and like a step in the right direction. I’m actually typing this now on some oldy named blogging software called Lekhonee which I found in the Software Center.

Then, the network manager has also been revamped a bit. In conjunction with the Bluetooth applet you are now able to connect to your mobile phone’s 3G internet connection via Bluethooth in just a couple of clicks. Connecting to the internet from a fresh install is now as easy as grabbing some random persons phone and clicking about 7 or 8 times.

Another big reason to upgrade for those of you using Jaunty is that the big mess they made with the Intel Graphics drivers has now been cleaned up.

There are other changes like Empathy replacing Pidgin (which is probably a good move in the long term), but I don’t feel like going into that. You can go read about that on some other blog. If you feel the need to keep up to date with the latest developments and funky features on the Ubuntu front I highly recommend www.omgubuntu.co.uk.

The post is brought to you by lekhonee v0.7

The Future of Linux and ARM Processors

When you talk about CPU’s most people think along the line of AMD/Intel. It’s understandable that most people have never heard of ARM processors. When you go into a PC store you don’t see boxes with stickers that read “ARM inside”. This is because they have never been a player in the PC market. ARM chipsets are primarily used in embedded devices. These chipsets power about 90% of electronic gadgets. If you look inside your your mobile phone, ipod or bathroom scale, chances are you’ll find a ARM chip.

Most gadgets are powered by ARM chips for two reasons. They are extremely energy efficient and dirt cheap. ARM chips on average cost manufacturers less than a US dollar. These chips however lack the power and sophistication it requires to run Windows. This is the main reason why you won’t find them in your run of the mill PC.

The market is changing though. The evolution of CPU’s has reached to a point where most people don’t need the extra power offered by next generation  CPUs. This and the increasing popularity of Linux opened up a new gap in the market. Asus saw this opportunity and gave birth to the eeepc. By using cheap low powered hardware in combination with a custom Linux based operating system, they gave users a lightweight portable device that could perform tasks like browsing the web and word processing without burning a hole in their pocket.

It wasn’t long before Intel came to the market with the Atom processor that fueled netbook revolution. Microsoft was caught completely of guard. Vista was far too resource intensive to run on these devices. XP was at the end of its life and too pricey to ship with low cost netbooks. Instead in a desperate attempt to capture a slice of this emerging market they droped of the price of XP to netbook manufacturers and extended its life. Because users were more familiar with the Windows operating system the prevalence of Linux on netbooks slowly dwindled.

The evolution of netbooks have made them bigger, more powerful and also more pricey. This also made them better candidates for newer Microsoft operating systems. Can these new devices still be classified as netbooks? Their specifications and price are pretty much on par with smaller form factor notebooks. The definition of a netbook is not well defined and changes depending on who you ask. Some believe that these new netbooks no longer fit the definition.

These new Windows/Atom based netbooks seem to be leaving the original netbook market largely unserviced. This leaves the door wide open for new low cost ARM based netbooks. Over the years ARM processors have become more powerful while still maintaining low power consumption. Snapdragon processors are now powerful enough to compete with Intel in the low power computing market. Traditional Windows operating systems that people have grown far to accustomed to does not work on the ARM architecture. There is also no indication that Microsoft plans to support it.

It seems like Microsoft is again being caught of guard as Linux is set to regain its prominence in the low cost computing market. This week has seen 15 new ARM based netbooks being unveiled at Computex Taipei 2009. It is expected that 20% of netbooks sold this year will be ARM powered. With Microsoft not being able to capitalise on this market Linux  should have a field day.

New Themes for Jaunty

I installed the sixth alpha version of the upcoming version of Ubuntu last night and was pleasantly surprised to find some new themes after installing the updates. There has been talk of a theme overhaul for some time now and I was kind of doubtfull that it would happen. New themes that are now available in the alpha version include Dust, Dust Sand (very mac-ish) and New Wave which one that particularly fond of and currently using on my machine at home. I have no idea whether or not these themes will be included in the final release but I’m really hoping that one of them might replace Human as the new default theme. Below are some screen shots:

newwavedustsand1dust

Dog Food

I don’t think I’ve ever seen our dogs eat their chunks. When their bowls are filled they gather around semi-excited with expectant looks, examine the bowl for about 2 seconds then walk away as if to say: “You bastard! How dare you feed me this crap!”. Later their bowls will be empty. It’s like by some unspoken principle they simply refuse to eat in front of me. Maybe they solely live of table scraps and its really the neighbourhood pigeons pecking up their pellets.