Saturday, June 28, 2008

Intel Graphics and Ubuntu : Warning! Do NOT mix

So I had a little time my hands at office. We use 32-bit Windows XP for development,but the boxes are all 64-bit dual cores. So naturally I got the crazy idea in my head to install and run my programs (J2EE based) on 64-bit Linux (Kubuntu 8.04 - [KDE not KDE4] in this case).

Now I consider myself a fairly advanced Linux user, so the amount of difficulty I had in doing this was quite frankly, shocking. Lets go over what all happened:
  1. I didn't want to partition my drive so I installed Wubi. I don't really like Gnome, so I went in for Kubuntu. Wubi detected I had a 64-bit processor and started downloading the right ISO. So far so good!
  2. The system reboots in Linux and ... crashes. Time to boot in safe graphics mode
  3. Linux installs but my monitor resolution is all wrong. Checked the graphics card drivers and found the installer had permanently put my system in safe graphics mode... Reset graphics configuration to activate the normal driver
  4. Seems to work fine, KDE works, install compiz, works, restart... Damn! The screens gone blank, none of the keys work Restart... Again stuck. Restart in repair mode, uninstall compiz, the problem seems to be in starting KDE
  5. Decided to switch to Ubuntu from Kubuntu... Simple enough: just call sudo apt-get install ubtuntu-desktop
  6. OK! Gnome ... Sux .... Install KDE4 (sudo apt-get install kde4), remove the horrible new launcher, replace with old one, play around with the icons a bit and... Damn! The panel has disappeared
  7. Whew... After that fix, I am back... to square one... KDE4 Sux
  8. Restart (I don't even remember why... or maybe logged out) and... Damn! Its BSOD (BLACK Screen of Death) again
  9. Getting pissed... Check Google - oh wow! there's a bug (in Xorg - Ubuntu's Graphics Subsystem's - Intel 965 implementation). This is mirrored in Ubuntu. Ok... Get the latest experimental Xorg from here, uninstall the old version (sudo apt-get remove xserver-xorg-video-intel xserver-xorg-video-i810) and install the new one (sudo dpkg -i xserver-xorg-video-intel_2.3.1-1ubuntu1~bwh3_amd64.deb)
  10. Wow! Now Xorg works ONCE per restart - I can work fine if I log into the system, but if I log out, system hang... Sux... But still... manageable
  11. Ok now to work... Eclipse... check... Pidgin (2.4.2 to fix an annoying bug with sharing profiles with Windows XP)... check... JDK... Yikes comes with JDK6...
  12. OK... sudo apt-get install jdk5 ... Fail! ... Damn! ... search packages for JDK5 ... Fail!
  13. Now what? -> libraries -> hardy. Ok got it: ia32-sun-java5-bin for JDK5 32-bit and sun-java5-bin for autodetect (in my case, 64-bit). Now that I know the name, apt-get will work.
  14. Yippee! Everything works! Now I can run my stuff, (that btw, runs flawlessly from the start - WORA in action!) play around a bit... Damn! I logged out... Sux
  15. Back to Windows... I have had enough for a few weeks
Its amazing how difficult it is to get Linux set up... Ubuntu is tons better that anything else, but still miles off... Why is it that I can go on the net, download one version of a exe and it will blindly work on Windows, but if I try to do the SAME thing on the linux side, I have to worry about 10s of things - kernel versions, distributions, this and that... JDK 5 for Windows I can get off Sun's website. For Ubuntu? Good Luck. And considering the number of bugs in Xorg integration with Intel video cards, I almost feel Micro$oft is paying Intel to make this happen!

By the way, Wine is amazing. I got most of my favorite Windows utilites (Editplus, Baretail) working with Linux, which made me feel right at home. I even got IE working, Windows Media Player wouldn't work for some reason though and I didn't have the heart to debug more installation issues. This meant Launchcast wouldn't work either, though an enterprising person has come up with a perl based solution :) I still couldnt listen to my personal station though... just the pre-existing ones, but without ads...

Oh wait... I forgot... One last catastrophe... See Wubi creates a single file in the Windows NTFS filesystem for Linux. In the middle of all the crashes, this folder got corrupted and Scandisk ended up moving all the files out... I had a lot of fun moving everything back to the right location from File0001.chk! No data loss though...

Overall, looks like I wont be shifting full time to Linux for development anytime soon. Exchange integration is still not perfect, though Evolution has come a long way. On the flip side, once set up, Ubuntu actually works faster and stabler in 64-bit than Windows in 32-bit (besides the aforementioned Intel issues) JBoss and any J2EE or even Java programs run without any issues. And Compiz Fusion is truly fantastic of course. Its just that getting the base system setup was so annoying that I got really frustrated... Its just my luck to have to deal with Intel issues...

Well, in truth I might switch, if IS tries to force McAfee AV down my throat again :) ... And if I have to work in 64-bit for some reason, Linux is pretty much the only reasonable option...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Firefox 3 Released

Well I guess just about everyone has upgraded to Firefox 3 by now, considering they have over 15 million downloads. India has over 200,000; I think a lot of Indian ISPs install a transparent proxy... Mine certainly does :) That must be lowering the number quite a bit. Also I guess we Indians use computers mostly for work, there are relatively fewer people who use computers and have a passion for it, or are in a environment where all the software installed is not locked down :) Even at office, a lot of my developer friends stick with IE (some with IE6!)

For those who actually participated in the world record attempts you can get a certificate here. By the way, Firefox RC 3 was silently re-released/rebranded as Firefox 3 final. So amazingly, just checking for update with Firefox RC 3 installed will lead to it starting to call itself Firefox 3.

As for add ons, most are now working with Firefox 3. Google Toolbar was updated in the nick of time - a few hours before Firefox 3 final. Still not toolbar 5 for Firefox users so, the button gallery is useless... If you still have something not working, you can use this tip.

One critical add on I found missing is Tab Mix plus. I combine it with the information given here to convert my Firefox to Widefox. A developmental but stable build of Tab Mix Plus that is FF3 compatible can be gotten here. (Direct link). Unfortunately, Widefox does not work with Firefox 3 and Tab Mix Plus. One solution is to use the experimental Tab Kit addon (You have to log in, and its not compatible with TMP). Alternately, you can follow the instruction here.
  1. Navigate to your Firefox profile - %USERPROFILE%\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles.
  2. Inside this there will be a folder ????????.default (the ??? will be random characters). In the extensions folder inside this, there is a folder - possibly {dc572301-7619-498c-a57d-39143191b318} - having a tabmixplus.jar inside of it.
  3. Open the jar file in WinRAR. Navigate to content\tabmixplus\tab\ inside it
  4. Open the file tabmix_3.xml in a editor.
  5. Change the line saying
    <xul:scrollbox class="tabs-frame" anonid="scroll-tabs-frame" orient="horizontal" flex="1">
    to say
    <xul:scrollbox class="tabs-frame" anonid="scroll-tabs-frame" orient="vertical" flex="1">
  6. Replace the file back in the jar, restart Firefox and presto - Widefox is back...
FF3 has its own nifty new skin :) Actually the skin is different for each OS. If you want the Vista skin on Windows XP, you can download it here. If anyone is using Opera, then I am sure you have seen its new skin also; I had to download the classic skin and reinstall it as my parents use Opera and they are used to that one.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Network cable for $500

I normally don't repost stuff from the interwebs, but this is just too amazing to pass on.

Denon has launched $499 network cables. So all you (gullible) audiophiles out there - rejoice!

Product Page

Monday, June 2, 2008

POP Gmail and Spam Filters

GMail has pretty nifty Spam filters that block most Spam from reaching your account. While they usually have few false positive, they do have a disadvantage that I discovered a few weeks ago: if you are used to POPing your GMail account, you will find that GMail does not provide you with a way to POP messages marked as spam. Since messages in the Spam folder are deleted every 30 days, you have to log in once every 30 days to the web UI or you may lose important messages. This of course is annoying.

The solution: well there is no perfect solution to this. Google currently does not allow you to shut down Spam filering. The simplest thing to do if you find messages going to spam is to import your address book into GMail so that your contacts' mail no longer gets marked spam. If that is not sufficient, the only other thing you can do is use the advanced search capability of GMail to create a filter which forwards all Spam to another mail account. Create a new filter, in the "Has The Words" field, put in "is:spam." Ignore GMail's warning and click next. After this any spam which arrives should get forwarded to your alternate mail id...

On a side note, an interesting feature in GMail is the ability to create on the fly EMail aliases. Most people know that GMail will ignore . characters in the mail ID. So is same as What is interesting is that GMail is one of the few mail providers to support the + character. This means that anything after + in the mail ID is simply ignored. is same as; a mail sent to will arrive to's inbox. Hereafter filters applied to the To field can easily sort out the mail. Another nice use is to create an alias for each site that asks for your mail ID. This way you can easily see which sites are providing your mail ID to spammers :)

By the way, if you are thinking to combine this with the filter for spam (lets say if you want to forward mails from one GMail account to another, or, like me, from Apps For Your Domain to your regular mail ID) Be warned, GMail does not allow filtering on the ID to which an EMail was auto-forwarded. It always filters on the original ID to which the mail was sent. So if you have multiple mail aliases in the original account, you will have to configure multiple aliases in the target too...