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Distro Nuisance

What do you think is the main reason which prevents Linux being adopted as a widespread desktop OS?

Microsoft? No. The linux distributions themselves. At present there are more than 200 Linux distributions in the market according to Distrowatch (Link on the left). So what are all these people trying to achieve? Mostly -ease of installation.

When a newbie decides to try Linux and starts to obtain a CD, the first hurdle that he faces is … chosing the right distribution. If you ask this on a forum, every ‘expert user’ or a ‘geek’ will comeup with his own opinions on which is best, usually resulting in a flame-war. Linux loses some of its aspiring users at this point itself.

And then if a newbie goes beyond the point of selecting a distribution and finally installs it on his PC, he will invariably get stuck with a problem or two within the first two days. Then he goes to the forums again. And there comes this geek who advises him/her to switch to another distribution where configuring certain things are very easy.

And then our newbie friend installs the ‘other’ distribution and finds another problem, not to mention that something that worked perfectly in the previous distro is not working as expected in the new one. He goes back to the forum and alas, Linux has lost most of the newbies at this point.

Redhat to an extent tried to introduce a uniform look and feel across desktop environments, but even before they could see the results, they are out of the desktop business. The redhat CEO ‘recommends’ using Windows for the desktop ! Sun is trying to do the same with their Java desktop. We have to wait and watch for the results.

And then there is KDE vs GNOME, OpenOffice vs KOffice etc., etc., – endless debates going on in the linux world.

(Have you noticed that whenever a newbie posts his frustration of installing/configuring something in Linux, all the geeks come at you shouting “YOU DONT KNOW HOW TO DO IT. YOU ARE AN A** H***. DONT BLAME LINUX. On the other hand, if you post a similar problem on configuring something on Windows, they will all start bashing MS, their attitude, their marketing etc., etc., and immediately ask you to migrate to Linux !)

BTW, Mandrake is my favorite distribution. It is better than Redhat, SuSE, Gentoo etc., Start with Mandrake if you are a newbie. :-).

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Ultimate Spam Blocker
This is a good spam blocker that I have found on the net. It uses a bayesian filtering algorithm to determine what is spam and what is not. During the initial few days, you have to teach the program what mails are spam mails. As the ‘learning’ progresses, soon you will find that you are receving less and less spam mails in your inbox. I have used the program for more than a month and now it filters about 99% of my spam mails. Unfortunately, right now it works only with POP3 accounts.

The program is free. If you like it, you can donate some money to the author.

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Proposal to send men to Mars fraught with risk – The Washington Times: World Briefings

Interesting read on why it is not feasible (or very difficult) to send man to Mars. This reminds me that India is also planning to put a man in space soon. The case has become so strong after rival chinese put a man on space last year. While many people are raising the question of India’s ambition to send a man to moon 4 decades after a man landed there for the first time, it is an issue of pride for ISRO. For a nation which is considered advanced in Satellite and remote sensing technologies, it is already too late to send someone to moon. Better late than never.

The US goverment is already planning to have a human colony in moon. Now, isn’t that over-ambitious? Is it that there is no space on earth? Of course it is costly – but still you can buy land in Koramangala for cheap than moon :-). The implications are too many to list. Man will have to be always clothed in an Astronaut’s suit, Should have heating and cooling arrangements of very high capacity, Prohibitively high travel costs if you want to visit your parents, Non – availability of Idli or Dosa shops for south Indians landing on moon etc., etc., which makes it very difficult to survive on moon for more than a day. But still, the idea of having a short excursion to moon is always exciting. It may not be a good place to spend rest of ones life, but will be a wonderful to pay a short visit. (After all, wearing an astronaut’s suit is more like wearing a scuba diver’s suit, which most of us have doe already.) An artificial beach (Or is a natural one available already) will add to the excitement on moon.

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Saving the Zaurus – 1

When the charge on the Zaurus was completed, it is time now to load the OS. Right now, I don’t have a download of OZ (OpenZaurus), so I decided to go with the standard ROM from sharp. Installed and booted. Done.

Step 2. Install some software. The first basic necessity is a terminal. So I got the opie terminal and installed it.

Step 3. Customize the interface. This required sometime. I installed the tahoma font (the default helvetica looks ugly. One thing great about MS is their truetype fonts.) and also installed ZStyle. Installed the XP theme and got a nice and beautiful screen. I will post some screenshots over the weekend.

Step 4. Tried to get more information about the ad-hoc wireless networking. Looks like it is not a difficult thing to do. Wait for more information. I have a very interesting project in mind !

That is all for yesterday on the Z. The music sounds good and I have a 512 MB flash card. Can store atleast 100 songs on it. Nice little MP3 player while you are travelling.

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Of Perl, MP3, WMA and Zaurus

Remember the problem with my Jukebox ? I solved it by writing a java program to rename all the id3 tags. But here is a nice article which talks a lot about MP3 management with perl. Very interesting and useful.

And another gem of an information: MPlayer is supposed to play wma audio files. I usually convert my mp3s to wma files and keep them on my hard disk (The mp3 versions go to my Jukebox) to save space. The disadvantage is that I cant play them in Linux. I tried playing those wma files using gmplayer, but it invariably had skips and jerks while playing. Then I forgot this for sometime. Last week I happened to play a wma file using the mplayer commandline and saw a bunch of error messages scrolling by. It was complaining for a missing dll file. (How ironical ! A linux application complaining for a missing dll !! What next ? BSOD ?). I just copied the dll from my XP partition to /usr/local/lib/win32 and voila – The wmas started playing nice and clean, in fact it sounded better than windows. (Because of the ALSA driver?). What is now lacking is a nice winamp like GUI for mplayer. Any takers ?

Of late, many Linux applications have started using windows dlls (mostly drivers, coders and deoders). Intel has still not released a network drriver for centrino chipset. But open source enthusiasts have already comeup with wrappers on linux for these windows dlls. Good examples are Linuxant and ndiswrapper. All this without wine is quite amazing !

(I’m currently charging my Zaurus battery. It requires a 24 hour charge after a complete discharge. So wait till tomorrow for more updates !).

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Give life back to the zaurus
Now that I have settled well in Bangalore (devoid of a broadband connection!) its time to dust off some of those gadgets lying around. One of my proud possessions is a Zaurus Linux PDA . Now I have to find some applications/use for it. The following are the things that come to my mind:

– I do not have a wireless router. Is it possible to use the Zaurus for this ?
– If the above is not possible, setup an 802.11 ad hoc network between the Zaurus and cognitron (My compaq x1000 laptop).
– If ad hoc 802.11 works, try to setup a multimedia streaming server to serve audio and video from the laptop and use it in the Zaurus.
– Use it as a laptop replacement. I travel often to my hometown and hate lugging my laptop around. With enough applications and a large memory card (I already own a 512, a 128 and a 32 MB compact flash cards) the Zaurus could well serve the purpose of a laptop.

The above three are the ones that come to my mind now. Maybe I could think of a few more as well, but right now setting up the Zaurus is the first task. There are 3 operating system options available:

Open Zaurus An open source embedded linux OS.
-Official OS from sharp
-The Kompany ROM.

Kompany ROM is more towards users who have purchased a lot of PIM applications from them. The open zaurus is a nice independent OS from the community and has a whole lot of applications for it. The applications are mostly ported from the Linux world. Probably this OS has more applications than any of the other three. The Official ROM is what it is: The sharp made ROM. Quite good.

At present I am thinking of getting my hands the OpenZaurus mainly because:
– It syncs with linux. Sharp is yet to release a linux version of their sync software for the latest ROM.
– Host of applications available. Almost all popular unix utilities and applications are ported to this ROM.
– Highly customizable user interface.

Once I setup my Zaurus with a compiler, interpreter and PIM (Read java, perl and evolution), I’ll set out with the task of building some new projects. Watch out this space for some interesting projects !