Karmic Upgrade

I thought that upgrading my Jaunty Jackalope box to Karmic Koala would give me the good karma in my computing life 🙂 So here, I’m announcing to the world that I’m in the haste (being one of the early adopters) upgrading to Karmic Koala (Ubuntu version 9.10) Beta. While doing that, I’m backing up my data at the same time.

Upgrading to Karmic Koala

Upgrading to Karmic Koala

Terminal Case: Are consoles Is CLI destined to be dead come the era of super Linux desktops?

Gradually but surely, Linux has caught up with the popularity of Windows. Thanks to the valuable and selfless efforts of developers and users as well to make Linux a great alternative. I believe that the direction of Linux development is towards the desktop realm, as it has already made its niche in the service side of things. Ubuntu, for one, is being groomed as providing awesome experience even for ordinary people.

That being the case, what future lies for the command line interface, at least the advanced terminals like Gnome Terminal and Konsole? Will an ordinary user survive Linux without them, like a Mac’er probably does? Or put in another way, will terminals be deprecated, if not made obsolete, say, in a decade’s time? Or will they remain essential feature of a modern Linux box? I ask this from a non-developer’s point of view. Because I’m sure that an ordinary user would hate to see boxes chockful of alienatingly cryptic texts. They’d rather root for mice to get things done.

One criterion for the development of Linux distributions is the ease of use, including the ease with which to administer a machine. And I’m afraid that what used to be a supposedly quick way to do things with a terminal (like assigning file permissions) would be replaced by a graphical user interface.

I don’t know with the rest but I can’t live without a terminal. Even if it were declared illegal to use a console, I would go underground just to do so. Terminals are an essential part of my life. I use a terminal to (in order of importance):

  1. Run my self-written scripts like a journal system.
  2. Install or update applications. (I find the mouse clicks too tedious for me.)
  3. Look up a word or term in dictionaries stored in my computer.
  4. Administer a database.
  5. Tweak configuration files.
  6. Connect to another computer in office.
  7. Write simple text files.
  8. Read simple text files.
  9. File management.

So are you ready to live without a terminal?

Ubuntu implements cool new notifications

Ubuntu implements a new way of notification via its latest version in the offing. No more Post-It-like objects appearing onscreen.

I’m now using the development version, Jaunty Jackalope Alpha 5, as my production system. (I don’t encourage folks, especially the noobs, to try to shift to it now. They might not be as lucky as I am for not experiencing major crashes.)

Take a look at the following snapshots:

For mails via Evolution Mail

From Ubuntu New Notifications
For music via Rhythmbox

From Ubuntu New Notifications
When there’s change in brightness level

From Ubuntu New Notifications
When AC power is unplugged

From Ubuntu New Notifications
For online chats via Pidgin

From Ubuntu New Notifications
For print jobs

From Ubuntu New Notifications

As at this time, I cannot configure or do some tweaking to the notifications in terms of transparency or opacity, color, or placements. In the meantime, I feel satisfied with everything.

Flat-databasing a garbled data file (thanks to Perl)

I oftentimes encounter the difficulty of converting a garbled data file into a flat database version. More robust statistical foray into single datasets requires that they be in an organized state, thus the need for a flat-database format, indicating clearly separated columns or fields and corresponding rows or records. (Database experts also call them tuples.)

Perl has come to the rescue. I’ve used the cool practical extraction and reporting language to rearrange garbled data files I’ve copied from particular websites. The latest task I did was about the file containing number of Philippine barangays per year. For less than an hour (Of course, I could have just manually edited the file for 10 minutes. But I’m just preparing myself for similar problems involving thousands or even a million of rows or records.), I managed to create a script, which is shown in the slides below.

Note: The last slide does not clearly show the separated columns Count and Variance. But when you download the file, everything works out fine. Anyway, if you’re in the similar situation of wanting to clean up a large garbled data file, I may help you out.

Drooling over Apple gadgets: To bite or not to bite

No contest. You can’t compare an apple from a penguin. There’s no point pitting Powerbooks against Linux PCs. This I’ve been conditioned to think. But for a long time now, I’ve been problematizing whether I should someday change my way of computing life, budget permitting. Nuh, not into Microsoft (I said budget permitting, didn’t I?), but into Apple. Truth to tell, the first time I visited an Apple store in San Francisco two years ago, I salivated at the sight of the display Powerbooks, with their white and silver coatings and rounded corners. Had I had enough bucks then, I would have given in to biting the Apple of temptation.

Until now, I’m harboring mixed feelings about Powerbooks. By extension, I also am for iPods and iPhones. The price that each Apple product bears is unthinkably unaffordable for me. But what if I either had amassed more than enough money (wish, wish, wish) or Apple had cut down the prices like those in ukay-ukays (once more: wish, wish, wish)? Should I still buy?

No longer is the price the only determining factor for me. It’s also the resolve to stick to Linux. I’ve lived by the penguin for barely seven years already and I don’t think I’ll easily jump ship. But isn’t Mac free and open source? Well, relatively yes. Not as free and open source as Linux. I dare say Apple’s strategy effectively combines Microsoft’s being closed and Linux’s being open. Mac is open because it allows third-party applications to run in it, and the fact that it hosts numerous projects being used by Linux enthusiasts as well. However, it is closed because the development of the OS X is relegated to Apple only. Likewise, Apple’s iPods and iPhones are also being hit for their vendor lock-in and DRM features, among others.

When I learned that several of my co-Linux advocates moved to Mac, I got disappointed. Perhaps it’s just me who only know black and white colors.  I remember three years ago, when I attended a software camp in Bangalore, India, that there was some tension between those using Macbooks and those using laptop PCs running variants of Linux. The latter criticized the camp’s organizers for allowing at least resource persons who used proprietary softwares, referring both to Windows and Mac. I didn’t know how the former defended themselves. Perhaps they kept mum or argued that MPBs were much better for such tasks as graphic design and desktop management.

So why I couldn’t decide to move to Mac or buy any of Apple’s products?

  • No money, honey!
  • I feel that moving to Mac or buying an iPhone is like abandoning the cause of Linux, being one of the movements that fight for FOSS. I can’t convince one to migrate to Linux if I’m using Mac, can I?
  • I’m working in a setting of supposed simple life, devoid of luxuries. I wouldn’t take being badgered by anyone who sorts of questions the necessity of my having it, if not my capacity to buy it. As I’m the type that is wont to unfolding his laptop everywhere he goes, I feel that using a Macbook in a far-flung area is too alienating where the people I’d like to relate with are concerned.
  • I don’t want a “dual-machine” setup, meaning, keeping both a laptop PC running Linux and an MPB. It’s too complicated, if not expensive, for me.

If ever I would discard my present notebook (ECS transmeta crusoe), which is already over two years in my company (meaning the discarding would be anytime soon due to depreciation), what I would root for is a dual-core notebook, wifi-ready, and with great video and audio capacities, DVD writer and 200GB harddisk. That’s for sure, the fact that I can buy one at not more than P50,000.

As for a mobile phone, I don’t dream of having an iPhone as I’m already happy with my multitasking 3G SE K610.  Aside from the phone functions, I can use it to capture ‘bloggable’ images and connect my notebook to the Internet almost everywhere. And an iPod? Nuh. There’s my SE K610 that can play my favorite mp3s. Although, I fervently hope for the success of Openmoko, an open source mobile communications platform.

For now, let me hold on to my faith in Linux. Apple temptations, back off. Torment me not.

Great ado with Gutsy beta update

Since I’m already using Ubuntu Gutsy still in development stage, I should not be surprised at a possible breakdown of my machine because of an OS glitch. In previous flavors of Ubuntu (Edgy and Feisty), I could not remember I had any problem with their development versions except that I needed to reconfigure my xorg.conf to tweak my touchpad.

But with Gutsy, I had an experience that made me panic. This happened after I had updated my Gutsy’s beta version. While my laptop was booting, an interminable series of error messages was spieled off. I took a snapshot of three of the messages (see image).

I thought that the error is due to a broken process or something. So I pressed Ctrl+D to kill it for the next process to ensue. It would not seem to stop so I continued to press Ctrl+D but repeatedly. It didn’t solve it, so I rebooted the machine. The problem was still there although that time I was routed to a root password prompt. In trying to look for the culprit, I found that all my hda partitions, except the /, were not usable or something. “Corrupted?” I asked myself in silent panic. I pressed Ctrl+D hoping that I would finally make sense of the problem. X went fine but I was not brought to my home directory but the root.

In my Google search, I discovered that evms was to blame. I found that the workaround is to edit the evms.conf file and replace the line “exclude [ ]” with “exclude [ * ]”. That means excluding all storage devices (harddisks, for instance) from the evms storage management framework. I followed the tip, then rebooted the machine. Success!

Further on in my Google search about the bug, I found out that it was discovered in the earlier development version of Gutsy but was supposed to be resolved later. But I wonder: If this is the case, why did the problem crop up again when I updated my system yesterday? Aren’t software revisions supposed to be progressive, not otherwise?

Making things easy through Perl

I want to be known as a social activist who uses Perl. Are there any in this doggone world? It sounds outlandish, yes, but that’s just me. Besides, there are two kinds of human beings in this planet: the freaks and those struggling not to be freaks.

My interest in Perl started when I was a budding Linux enthusiast in 2001. Although, the interest did not immediately morphe into an expertise because I was too tied to my work then. (I was in a work transition from IPD to PEACE.) I can’t imagine myself hacking on a terminal while I’m busying myself with writing terminal reports.

But I couldn’t resist it. Linux is to blame because with it goes my curiosity as to what makes the free operating system stick after all the years. Perhaps, my experience in VBA programming (Microsoft Access flavor) fed into my continued passion for tinkering with codes to automate things. But of all the programming languages, why Perl?

use heart;
my $learning = undef;
my @apps = ();
foreach (@apps) {$learning++;}

A typical programmer surely understands that poetic code. I found Perl cryptic at first. I felt like having to wander far to look for the treasure trove containing the secret to understanding Perl. But as soon as I started to use my heart (sounds corny, right?), and understand the fundamentals like the basic variable types (scalar, array, hash) and regular expressions, I began to feel like focusing more on my coding objective than being bogged down by my learning of the language.

Until of late, social activism and hacking have been two separate worlds. The two have crossed paths when the software development industry became highly commercialized and politicized and when the digital age was criticized for its contribution to social divides. Thus, the birth of the Richard M. Stallman-led free software movement and other free-software-inspired communities like Linux users groups, Open Source Initiative, Alliance for Progressive Communications, and Creative Commons.

I can say that I’m a manifestation of that phenomenon, modesty aside. I do activism (though no longer going to the streets as often as I used to) and use the ICT (basically gadgets and the Internet) to facilitate and spread that activism. But why in a hell am I using Perl?

I use Perl because it’s a great tool to process text data. I remember when I had to translate an NSO dataset (not in spreadsheet but in raw text format) into our database. The manual solution could be to print out the dataset and ask someone to encode it through a user interface. But I was emboldened by the fact that Perl is an expert in processing text files and producing reports from out of them. So I tried to learn Perl and create a script to do the task.

I also created a Perl script for my collection of words that I’ve learned. With it, I can add an entry and look in it for particular words I’d like to retrieve. Then, as I posted here, I created a script to automagically rearrange a list of disordered names according to lastnames.

The latest adventure I had with Perl was in relation to my blog. I wanted to keep a local database of all my blog entries. So I created a perl script to convert the XML-formatted backup to CSV, which I used to export the entries to my PostgreSQL-based database. Then I wanted to keep local log of visits to my blog entries, so that I can assess which entries are popular and have ideas on how to improve my blog. So I wrote a Perl script to do so. On daily basis, here’s what I do:

  1. Open the blog page showing entry hits on a particular day.
  2. Select and copy the list of entries with the corresponding numbers of hits.
  3. Paste the copied list into an editor buffer and save it.
  4. Run the Perl script, which asks for the date of the hits report. The local database is then updated.

Surely enough, Perl will be there to help me automate more things. I’m bent to use it not only for text-processing tasks but also for system administration and web programming. And I’ll not run out of a string of beads called Perl.