Wednesday Aug 19, 2009

Desktop OS for Personal Computing

I have been using OpenSolaris as my primary desktop for quite a while - it has been working well, all the devices except blue-tooth work. Features like suspend-resume and network auto manager have made life easier. With ZFS boot environment and Image packaging system, it has been easier to eliminate unwanted software and services to keep the desktop lightweight. I do not want to waste CPU cycles on fancy cruft that comes with default installation which may not required for desktop usage.

I usually keep upgrading to the latest builds, but noticed that few things have been degrading compared to previous builds I have been running. Mainly it looked like the boot up time had increased to more than a minute compared to something which it look 20-30 seconds previously. Rather than spend time debugging what went wrong, I surveyed a number of available Desktops to see if I am missing anything by running OpenSolaris, looking for something that works well and has a fast neat UI. I use virtualbox extensively to get access to different versions of Solaris as needed. In this Survey I used trial on VirtualBox as the first yardstick, followed by USB or CD booting it on my laptop.

1. Windows 7. A trial version is available for download - It looks like they rearranged few things on Windows Vista, fixed few bugs and called it new - like expired food in a new can. Slow and sluggish and certainly I may not buy it even if they give a 99.99% discount on it. I ran it on Virtual box as well as installed it on a spare partition, to try it.
Rating 2 out of 5.

2. Ubuntu Netbook Remix - the same old Gnome user interface with an additional launcher which looks like was assembled in a hurry. Tried it on VirtualBox but did not consider it worthwhile to try it further.
Rating 1 out of 5

3. Intel's Moblin - seems promising given it is still being worked on. Interface is much better than other Linux distros out there. It worked on Virtual box, but it panics when booted with USB stick. May be I will giver it a try when they get it working.
Rating 2 out of 5 (would have been higher if only it worked)


4. Live-Android - booted really fast, and has a refreshingly new GUI interface that is years ahead of the Windows 7 and Gnome. The USB booting does not seem to work. Booting from CD works. They are still working on it, and there are hacks to install other Android apps on it. Working with browser is tough and it doesn't look like it gives any access to the file system. However it has what I was looking for in my personal computer desktop - a fast and usable interface.
Rating 5 out of 5 (hoping it will mature into a full Desktop)


5. It seems Google is working on an OS called Chrome OS. If it is similar to Android and delivers on speed and usability, I am sure it would replace my existing Desktop. It might also mean the end of Windows Desktop and many other copy cat Linux Distributions out there.

6. Tinycore - offers a neat way to start with a cruft-less operating system that weighs less than 11mb and then add applications like firefox. Rating 2 out 5 (requires a bit of work to install and to get it working)


7. Webconverger - another distro that launches just the browser, worth mentioning.


There were a bunch of other distributions that I wanted to try like Fedora, Ubuntu and gOS, but looking at their screenshots, my guess is that they aren't any better than Android at this time so it would be futile to try them. At the moment I may install tinycore on the spare partition and upgrade to a better option if one becomes available.

Monday Aug 18, 2008

To prevent auto-reply e-mails

To keep some of the Sun's internal processes rolling my crontab(4) has accumulated a number of scripts that are run daily. These scripts send out emails of anything from a "gentle reminder" to gory details of process steps to follow.

In return for that service, a dozen or so vacation auto reply messages would get bounced at me automatically everyday when ever these scripts run. Looking at my mails I know who is on vacation or who is traveling.

So far I had a server-side filter that would filter out such responses. However is there way to stop these vacation auto-replies at the source?

It seems there is a way to tell the auto responders to ignore sending a reply to a mail, if the mail contains the header:

Auto-Submitted: auto-generated

Headers indicating an email to list can also suppress the autoreplies:

Precedence: list

After I added these to my scripts, I haven't seen any reply so far...

Tuesday Sep 11, 2007

Magic of Fading Windows and Shadows on Solaris

Solaris Express has had updated Xorg server for some time. It now comes with a compositing extension. This extension needs to be enabled in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. Make sure that xorg.conf has these lines:
Section "Extensions" 
  Option  "Composite"  "Enable"
  Option  "RENDER"     "Enable"
EndSection
It can be used to create special effects in the X11 windowing system. Compiz is one window manager that utilizes the extension to create multitude of eye catching effects. However it needs a good graphics card to run. If you just need smooth shadows and dissolving (fading) effects when windows appear or get closed, xcompmgr is good enough.

I run it with the following options: xcompmgr -cf -D 5 -r 5 -t -6 -l -6. It creates shadows behind windows. Menus, tooltips and windows appear and dissolve like magic. Though overall effects are subtle and unnoticeable at first sight, it makes the Solaris user interface more polished. Also X11 applications which use transperancy appear as they were intended to be (see the clocks in the screenshot).

Note that the xcompmgr isn't very stable, it crashes often.

Monday Jun 04, 2007

Desktop Two dot Oh

After listening to Prof. John Maeda recently, I had a look at his laws of Simplicity. As I had noted earlier in the story of OpenGrok, it is difficult to make things simple. Maeda's work provides a set of tools achieve simplicity in a more methodical way.

These laws are generic and I can see how they can make a difference to day-to-day things. I am interested in using them for software. Also because principles of Security intersect with Simplicity. Since simple things are considered more secure than complex things.

My eyes then turned towards the Gnome JDS desktop I was using and that seemed like a good subject to experiment with laws of Simplicity. At first each window has three boxes to represent itself! One on desktop as the window itself, again on the window list in bottom panel and again in workspace switcher. That lends to first law of reduction. There is also the "launch" main menu, that could be reduced too, since there are hundreds of applications and 90% of the time I only use few applications: terminal, browser, mail client...

That raises a question, do we really need a 200 megabyte desktop that comes with 100 tiny applications? or just a browser kiosk that can also run one or two other applications... I would call that Desktop 2.0, just like network is the computer, browser is becoming the desktop.

Friday May 04, 2007

OpenGrok at JavaOne, CommunityOne

Sriram Narayanan, of Thoughtworks is talking about OpenGrok on Monday 7th May as part of OpenSolaris Track at CommunityOne, an open and free event sponsored by Sun Microsystems. Sriram is an active member of Bangalore OpenSolaris User Group. He had earlier given a talk at Sun Tech Days conference. His talk was widely applauded. Sriram uses OpenGrok at work and shares his experiences with OpenGrok. His talk is scheduled at 4:00pm on Monday.

Monday Sep 18, 2006

Copyrights, Licenses and CDDL Illustrated

At the time CDDL was being introduced, I wanted to write an illustrated version of it. Merely because hardly anyone would read the full license text. Even if they did, I doubt 9 out 10 would have understood it completely. A recent CDDL/GPL misunderstanding that made news and started flame wars, prompted me to revisit an old illustration.

One approach is to understand copyrights, patents and licenses. The rights in copyrights are mainly rights to copy, modify, distribute, perform and display some 'work'... Patents protect ones right to use, manufacture or sell an 'idea' ... License is a set of rules and permissions... Other approach is to compare familiar licenses with CDDL.

This matrix tries to express some proprietary-EULA, GPL, CDDL and BSD licenses in terms of the rights in copyrights and patent rights. A green tick and red cross are self explanatory. A grey "~" means that the license does not say anything - mostly it is an implied OK.

Now lets compare and contrast GPL, CDDL and BSD licenses with respect to come common needs of developers who copy, modify or distribute a piece of software:

A common misconception is about CDDL and GPL incompatibility. (Incompatibility in the sense: to combine two source files, one under GPL and another under CDDL, to create a common executable.) GPL is incompatible with most licenses like Mozilla Public License, Apache, and CDDL. GPL wants you erase those licenses and use GPL in that place, where as these licenses do not permit erasing them. Hence the incompatibility deadlock.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I have gone to a law school, because my bank had a branch there. I have tried to keep these diagrams as factual and error free as possible. If there are errors, blame them on the tongue twisting legal-speak of license terms or please point them. These tables do not represent everything a license would say, merely hopes to capture their essence.

Wednesday Aug 16, 2006

Kannada on Solaris or ಸೋಲಾರಿಸ್-ನಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡ

ಸ್ಟಾಕ್ ಮಾರ್ಕೆಟ್ಟು ಹೇಗೆ ನಡೀತಿದೆ ಅಂತ ತಿಳ್ಕೊಳಕ್ಕೆ ಪ್ರಜಾವಾಣಿಯ summary ಬಾಕ್ಸು ತುಂಬಾ ಅನ್ಕೂಲ. ಈಗೇನು, ಇಡೀ ಪೇಪರ್ರೇ ಆನ್-ಲೈನ್ ಸಿಗತ್ತೆ, ಅಡ್ವ್ರಟೈಜ್ ಜೊತೆ! ಇದು ಅಮೇರಿಕಾದ ನ್ಯೂಸ್ ಪೇಪರ್ ಗಳನ್ನೂ ಮೀರಿಸತ್ತೆ! ಕೆಲ ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆಗೆ ಕಂಪೇರ್ ಮಾಡಿದ್ರೆ ಈಗ ಇಂಟರ್ನೆಟ್-ನಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡ ತುಂಬಾ ಮುಂದೆ ಬಂದಿದೆ. ಬಹುಷಃ ಮೈಕ್ರೋಸಾಪ್ಟ್ ವಿಂಡೋಸ್-ನಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡ ಓದಕ್ಕೆ, ಟೈಪ್ ಮಾಡಕ್ಕೆ ಸುಲಭ ಆಗಿರೋದ್ರಿಂದ, ಎಲ್ಲರೂ ಯೂನಿಕೋಡು ಉಪಯೋಗಿಸೋದ್ರಿಂದ, ಈಗ ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಇ-ಮೇಲ್ ಕಳ್ಸೋದು, (ಮೇಲ್ ಕಳ್ಸೋದು ಅಲ್ಲ!) ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ಬರೆಯೋದು (ಬ್ಲಾಗೋದು?), ಗೂಗಲ್-ನಲ್ಲಿ ಸರ್ಚ್ ಮಾಡೋದು ಎಲ್ಲಾ ಸಾಧ್ಯ.

ಸೋಲಾರಿಸ್-ನಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡದ ಸಪ್ಪೋರ್ಟ್ ಇದ್ಯಾ? ಕನ್ನಡದ ಲೊಕೇಲ್ ಇಲ್ದಿದ್ರೂ, ಕನ್ನಡ ಓದಕ್ಕೆ, ಟೈಪ್ ಮಾಡಕ್ಕೆ ಅಷ್ಟೇನೂ ತೊಂದ್ರೆ ಇಲ್ಲ. ಸೋಲಾರಿಸ್ ಇನ್ಸ್ಟಾಲ್ ಮಾಡ್ಬೇಕಾದ್ರೆ, ಹಿಂದಿ ಲೊಕೇಲ್ (hi_IN) ಸೆಲೆಕ್ಟ್ ಮಾಡ್ಕೋಬೇಕು. ಲಾಗಿನ್ ಆಗ್ಬೇಕಾದ್ರೆ, Options -> Languages -> hi_IN ಸೆಲೆಕ್ಟ್ ಮಾಡ್ಬೇಕು. ಡೀಫಾಲ್ಟ್ ಫಾಂಟುಗಳು ಸರಿಯಾಗಿ ಕಾಣೋದಿಲ್ಲ - ಇಳಿ, ಒತ್ತು, ಕೊಂಬುಗಳು ಬಿಡಿ ಬಿಡಿಯಾಗಿ, ಓದಕ್ಕೆ ಕಷ್ಟ. ಇದಕ್ಕೆ ಯಾವ್ದಾದ್ರು ಓಪನ್-ಟೈಪ್ ಫಾಂಟು ಬೇಕು. ಬ್ರಾಹ್ಮಿ ಪ್ರಾಜೆಕ್ಟ್-ನಿಂದಾ ಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆ, ಕೇದಿಗೆ ಫಾಂಟ್-ಗಳನ್ನು $HOME/.fonts/ ಗೆ ಕಾಪಿ ಮಾಡ್ಕೋಬೇಕು, ಇಲ್ಲಾ ಮೈಕ್ರೋಸಾಪ್ಟ್ ತುಂಗಾ ಫಾಂಟನ್ನು ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಲಿಂಕಿಸಿ. ಆಗ ಕನ್ನಡ ಓದಕ್ಕೆ ಸರಿಯಾಗಿ ಕಾಣತ್ತೆ. ಬೇರೆ ಭಾರತೀಯ ಭಾಷೆಗಳ್ಗೂ ಇದೇ ಕ್ರಮ.

Input Method Switcher Applet-ನಿಂದ ಕನ್ನಡ, ಇಂಗ್ಲೀಷು, ಹಿಂದಿ - ಹೀಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದ್ದನ್ನ, ಇ-ಮೇಲು, ಓಪನ್-ಆಫೀಸು ವಗೈರೆಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಟೈಪ್ ಮಾಡೋದು ಸಲೀಸು. ಮೋಜಿಲ್ಲಾ, ಫೈರ್-ಫಾಕ್ಸ್ ಮಾತ್ರ ಅದರ ಹೆಸ್ರೇ ಹೇೆಳೋರೀತಿ, ಕನ್ನಡದ ಮೋಜು ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ಇಲ್ಲಾ! ಅಂದ್ರೆ ಇಳಿ, ಒತ್ತು, ಕೊಂಬುಗಳು ಚೆಲ್ಲಾಪಿಲ್ಲಿಯಾಗಿ ಕಾಣ್ತವೆ.

kannada

ಕನ್ನಡದ ಲೊಕೇಲಿೈಜೇಷನ್ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನಗಳೂ ನಡೆದಿವೆ. ಅವರಿಗೆ ನನ್ನ ಒಂದೇ ಸಲಹೆ, ದಯವಿಟ್ಟು ಟೆಕ್ನಿಕಲ್ ಪದಗಳನ್ನ ಟ್ರಾನ್ಸ್ಲೇಟ್ ಮಾಡ್ಬೇಡಿ. Internetನ ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಇಂಟರ್ನೆಟ್ಟು ಅಂತಾ ಬರೀರಿ. ಅಂತರಜಾಲ ಅಂತ ಅವಾಂತರ ಬೇಡ. Queen Victoriaನ ರಾಣಿ ಗೆಲ್ಲಮ್ಮ ಅಂತಾ ಬರಿಯಕ್ಕೆ ಬರತ್ತೇ? :-) ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ್ರು ಮಾತಾಡ್ಬೇಕಾದ್ರೆ ಏನ್ ಪದಗಳ್ನ ಮಾತಾಡ್ತಾರೋ ಅದೇ ಕನ್ನಡ.
-ಚಂದನ್

Kannada on Solaris (translated)

I find it quite useful to read a short summary boxu (aka box) of stock markettu (aka market) happenings on Prajavani e-paper. This is years ahead of any major American newspaper, that you can read everything including printed ads on-line, for free. Kannada has spread considerably on Internet compared to what it was a couple of years ago. Mostly due to Microsoft Windows supporting rendering and typing Kannada. Due to usage of Kannada Unicode format, you can send e-mail (never say send mail in Kannada, because the word 'mail' is synonymous with word 'up', and sending someone 'up' (to heaven) is an entirely different matter), or blog or search Kannada words in Google.

Does Solaris support Kannada? though there isn't yet a Kannada locale, being able to read/type Kannada is not that difficult. You need to install hi_IN locale while installing Solaris. While loging into desktop session, choose Options -> languages -> hi_IN. Default font (Saraswathi) provided with Solaris though works fine on CDE, does not render properly on Gnome. i.e vowels and double-consonants don't merge well with consonants, making it quite difficult to read. I think the problem is Gnome needs a complete OpenType font. You can download Mallige.ttf or Kedage.ttf from Brahmi Project to $HOME/.fonts directory, or link the TUNGA.TTF in Microsoft WINDOWS/FONTS/ directory in your ~/.fonts/. Then the letters render fine. I assume for other Indic languages you will need to take similar steps.

Using Input Method Switcher Applet, you can switch between Kannada, English. With this typing in email, OpenOffice is quite easy. Despite this Mozilla Firefox does not render vowels and double-consonants properly, co-incidentally Mojilla means no-fun in Kannada. (moju = fun, illa = no, mojilla = no-fun)

kannada

There are efforts for Kannada localization too. I have one advice for them: please do not try to translate technical terms to Kannda, write Internet as Internettu, but dont write Antara-Jaala, do we write Queen "Victoria" as Rani "Gellamma" ? :-) What ever Kannadigas speak is Kannada.
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