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.

My Linux Desktop

My Linux Desktop

In response to taroogs who displayed a “free view” of his current Ubuntu desktop, let me show mine here. No, it’s not Ubuntu but Kubuntu. (Although, I have to admit that my computer has Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu installed at the same time. It’s just me. But since isda (name of my laptop) is kinda slow [not necessarily as slow as the owner’s grey matter], I’m oftentimes confined to running IceWM instead, which takes up less resources [CPU and memory]).

My desktop explained

What’s the purpose of my desktop? First, to gratify myself. Second, to attract somebody else’s attraction. “Wow, great desktop! What Windows version are you using?” A 5 to 10 minute introduction to Linux then follows.

The wallpaper is courtesy of a KDE fan who contributed it to be among the free-of-charge KDE wallpapers. Atop are links to my active documents, i.e., those I’m currently editing or writing as well as those I just downloaded either for review or reading.

Noticed the picture thumbnails? Yeah, they’re the cutie snapshots of my beloved. Of course, Josh Herald, my youngest, takes the most number of ads 😛

The toolbar. It’s rather big compared to Windows’ default size. But I like it big, anyway. Because it can host a number of icons, applets and links to open programs. And have you noticed the clock? Noticed its complete date and time info? Does Windows provide the name of the day?

Oh, I almost forgot. I’m already running bleeding-edge (meaning not yet official) version of Gutsy Gibbons. The Beta version will be released two days from now. But I can’t wait for it. I’d rather enjoy the excitement of an early adopter: “I have it first.”

Software Freedom Day Philippines, best event once again?

For two times in a row, I attended the Software Freedom Day celebration in Quezon City. Last year, it was held in UP Diliman, College of Engineering. This year, same area, but specifically at the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).

I felt guilty, though, that I came at around 4pm, two hours before the event would be concluded. When I came through the lobby, it almost felt that there was no event at all. A lady from StratPoint, one of the event’s sponsors, approached me and introduced herself. After my asking her where the event was being held, she pointed me to the “back”. She said that the registration area is located in there as well. So I went straight ahead. But I couldn’t see any “registration area”. The open space was a bit chaotic, with some people glued to the computers and others chatting with one another. I then decided to enter a conference room, without any idea what was being discussed inside. The topic was OS migration. Of course, it’s not a new concept to me. But I stayed inside until it was finished. The guy who spoke was from Q-Linux. I’m sure the audience–mostly college students or young hackers, I guess–learned a lot from him. I thought that I would learn something from the topic. Perhaps had I come when the topic started, I would have so.

After that talk, I proceeded to the bigger conference room where Drupal was to be discussed. Before that happened, Rick of CPU led a raffle game, giving out to winners Red Hat souvenir items (laptop bag, mug, and document bag) courtesy of Q-Linux. I was sure I didn’t have any chance to win just because I was not registered (sob).

The talk about Drupal (presented by Noel Colino) was interesting. Since I’m a fan of Joomla, I didn’t have any deep knowledge about Drupal. But at least, I now know a bit of history about it. I came to know that Dries Buytaert (Drupal exponent) was supposed to name it as Dorp, a Dutch term for village or community. However, when Dries tried to register the name for a web domain, he mistakenly typed ‘drop’ instead of dorp. Later, the name was changed to drupal, a Dutch term for “drop”.

I found the talk very familiar, realizing that Drupal and Joomla have similarities in terms of scripting language and terminologies. The advantage of the speaker was that he was not a hacker himself so he was able to explain stuff in a rather non-technical way.

On the personal side, I felt that I didn’t belong, because people I saw were generally younger than me and that I knew only a few of them. Had I not initiated to greet friends (including Jerome Gotangco and Francis Sarmiento), it would have felt like I was a ghost. I should understand that I came to the tail-end of the event, when the energies of people would invariably flag down and other friends and familiar faces would already be gone.

It’s indeed another frustration for me that PLUG was not made one of the organizers of the event. But that’s another story.

Indeed, for a community of software freedom lovers, or for any community, for that matter, personal relations matter a lot. It’s enough that two persons love the cause, they somehow need to have established closeness beyond that political love.

Let’s separate this personal rant from a point I’d really like to make. I think that the event is much more successful than the previous one. Messaging was better (with the streamers and posters mounted around). I’m sure that the organization of the event was much better in the morning if I would base that to the cute kit provided.

The event showed the same thing as last year: That things can be free (as in free speech and free beer). Yes, the kit and refreshments were free. (I guess the speakers likewise gave inputs gratis et amore.) Well, credit that to the event’s sponsors.

The SFD event this year must be commended as it was last year. As I said, I did not witness the entire event but based on my impressions in the afternoon, it should win once again as the best SFD event in the world.

What I’ll Do for Software Freedom Day

Today is Software Freedom Day. Over 330 teams from over 90 countries are participating. In the Philippines, there are two celebrating, one in UP Diliman and another in Davao.

So what am I set out to do this red-letter day as far as software freedom is concerned? Here they are:

  1. Greet my friends a Happy Software Freedom Day.
  2. Do a simple poem for SFD. [done]
  3. Attend SFD event in UP Diliman. [done]
  4. Blog about FOSS-related stuff (up to five entries).
  5. Create a stub about SFD Philippines on Wikipilipinas. [done]

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