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Freedom Is the Addiction, Ubuntu the Gateway Drug March 21, 2007

Posted by Carthik in about, Friends Etc., ubuntu.

It’s Ubuntu’s fault, really. If I hadn’t gotten started on the free software ride, I wouldn’t have any compunctions about stolen music. What’s 300 stolen albums when you’ve collected $2000+ in stolen software?

K Mandla.

After using Ubuntu long enough, I too don’t see the need to use pirated software on Windows. I still use Windows XP at work/school. I get it for free, legally, from school. When that stops I will have to stop using it. On XP, I use The GIMP, VLC media player, and a host of other free alternatives. Life is good, light and joyful with free software.

Trying Dreamhost for Backup January 22, 2007

Posted by Carthik in about, servers.

So finally I gave in and decided to give Dreamhost a shot. I need cheap backup space, and since Dreamhost promises 200GB or so of space with 2 TeraBytes of bandwidth, I thought it is worth a look. They promise to refund my money if I cancel within 2-3 months. Frankly I am still suspicious of the offer – so much space can’t be so cheap ($10 per month approximately). I guess, in the worst case, as I use up the maximum storage, or even, say, about 100 GB, I might get a warning or something. I can just up and leave then. I don’t really care about website performance, PHP, MySQL or anything else, since all I need is the storage space. I will get my rsync-based backup scripts going at work and school, and we’ll see.

In the best case scenario, they will let me use the space they promise, and I will recover the cost of the hosting from the referrals from this blog. If you, or anyone else signs up using my referral link, I will get $97. That is a lot of money, yes, so if you want to support a poor Ph.D. student, you have one more method to do that. If I were you, I wouldn’t sign up just yet – let me be the sacrificial lamb, so to speak.

$10 a month is still gnawing at my conscience – that is a lot of money for just backing up data, but if you look at it another way, it is less than what I think my data is worth. I know, I could just buy a huge harddrive and backup to that (which I do on and off), but there are a lot of advantages to backing up to a server somewhere – you can automate the process(don’t have to connect the USB HDD), and the physical seperation provides some extra peace of mind.

I also looked at other online backup service providers, most of which are listed and reviewed here, but none of them seem to be too eager to support Linux. Also, all I really need is a way to log in via SSH, and the permissions to run some rsync scripts. JungleDisk offers some utility to access Amazon’s S3 storage system for Linux, but at $0.15 per GB, and $0.20 per GB transferred, it will still cost me way more than $10 per month. The only thing is, with Amazon, I can trust and rely on my backups, with Dreamhost I can’t. Dreamhost has had data loss disasters in the past, and I must remember that I get what I pay for, always. I have also had friends who have been kicked off in the past because their blog used up too much of the shared resources. The only resource I will be using is the generous disk space. They use Debian, so there’s that little bit of feel-good factor in it for me, too. For starters, I am holding on tight to my local USB HDD backups while trying to store my data on this server. Anyone with any cautionary tales please caution me now, before it is too late! Does anyone else pay for data backup or is it just me?

Year 2006: In Retrospect January 1, 2007

Posted by Carthik in about.

This last year was great for this blog. A few posts got dugg, a few made me smile and overall I am a happy camper.

To wind up the last year, here’s a list of all the posts that were featured on Digg.com:

  1. First Ubuntu Billboard Spotted
  2. Super Fast Internet for Ubuntu
  3. Flash 9 for Ubuntu
  4. Software to Watch DVDs and All Multimedia Files on Ubuntu
  5. The Meaning of “Ubuntu” – Explained by Nelson Mandela
  6. Ubuntu (Canonical) Decides to Offer Non-Open-Source Commerical Software!!

Not surprisingly, these are also the most popular posts of the past year. The other posts that make up the top 10 most popular posts are:

  1. Installing using an RPM file
  2. How to mount a remote ssh filesystem using SSHFS
  3. Adding a startup script to be run at bootup
  4. Disable Synaptics Touchpad
  5. Enabling CPU Frequency Scaling

The total number of posts stands at 187. The total number of comments is amazing: 2502! That is more than 10 comments per post on average. Thank you!!

Ubuntu Blogs Round-up December 23, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about, Other sites, planet ubuntu, ubuntu, Ubuntu Sites.
comments closed

The response to my request for Ubuntu Bloggers to put their hands up has been tremendous.

So much so that I felt obliged to round them all up and create a page listing all the little known Ubuntu Blogs 🙂

The listings are sorted by language. There’s even one video blog (vlog.gwallgofi.com/) where the author/presenter intends to communicate with hearing challenged folks using sign language. Very cool!

Of course, the request brought forth a couple of strange responses: a scientologist and someone who writes about AIDS. I haven’t included your blogs in the list for the simple reason that a search for Ubuntu on your blogs turned up zip. If you start writing, I will include you later.

Erythro points out that there is a list of blogs at the forums. Thanks – I have added links to the two forums threads at the page.

Daniel floated the idea of an extra-solar(?) planet of Ubuntu Blogs by Ubuntu Users:

I wonder what would be a good way to tap into that well of online knowledge about Ubuntu and present way in an useful and friendly way to the world? Maybe what we need is an userplanet.ubuntu.com or community.ubuntu.com to complement the more official planet.ubuntu.com that would aggregate these Non-Ubuntu-Member blogs.

I think it is a great idea, and even thought about setting it up on my own server. However, Gouki expressed interest in implementing it first, and since I don’t like stepping on toes, I will wait for a while for him to do it. Gouki, would you mind terribly if I did it myself? Or better still, would the higher-ups at Canonical/Ubuntu want to do this (semi-)officially?

Thank you for sending in links to your blogs – I have added them to my feedreader and look forward to reading about your experiences. Now you have a guaranteed audience of at least one interested soul 🙂

Coming up with the list was really time consuming – have been doing nothing else for the past three hours. I visited each blog, checked it out(when I could understand the language), and had a good time overall. It’s a good thing its the holidays. But unfortunately, because of this, I will have to cut back a little on working on this blog over the next couple of days. It is the holidays and I will be off on a little holiday myself, in a day or two.

Typos, Spellos and Uh Ohs December 14, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about, navel, planet ubuntu, ubuntu.

I have noticed that ever since these posts have been appearing at the Ubuntu planet, the number of typos, spellos and uh-ohs have been increasing. A spello is when one word gets mogrified into another, changing the meaning of the sentence – e.g., “The package will not be installed” when what was meant was, “The package will now be installed”.

I have a theory that being self-conscious and careful is actually increasing the number of mistakes I make and makes me too wordy, artificial and also makes my sentences longer and more incomprehensible.

And then, at the top right corner of my two-dimensional brain lives this irrational fear that I am angering many powerful demigods with my lame-ass posts. “Tips and tricks indeed,”… they might think, “we learn this stuff with our ABCs…” 🙂 I’m sorry if that’s indeed the case.

Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks: The Book December 11, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about, books, reviews, ubuntu.

Boing Boing likes Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks. So what’s in it for me, you ask?

Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks

Well, that book was the first book I ever technically reviewed :). I reviewed it over a period of a month or so, and it was a great job. Some of my comments got overlooked, but that is okay, I guess. Little things, like the non-uniformity of URLs (Some begin with “http://” some don’t; some have “www.” some don’t) irritate me a lot. But all in all, the book has come out to be well appreciated, and that is reassuring.

The book is written in a very simple, straightforward, non-geeky language and is best suited for folks who are not very computer savvy. When I first read it I honestly thought, “Wow! Will this book sell? Are there folks out there who need help with this kind of stuff too?” Then it dawned on me – for the average computer user, who does not (and has no desire to) spend the entire day in front of a computer, learning a new system can be quite the challenge. This book tells you how to do the very basic stuff, and holds your hand through the various motions of everyday computing using Ubuntu. I think it will come in handy for the niche market consisting of folks who want to give Ubuntu a shot, and yet are hesitant because “Linux is a geek thing”.

I don’t agree with the “You need to be a geek to use Linux” viewpoint, though I can see why there is such an opinion in the first place — the lack of a widespread user community does mean that you need to be resourceful in fixing problems and finding solution, and be self-sufficient at least with regards to researching and learning the various ways of doing things. Windows users can always take comfort in the guy/girl in the next cubicle, or that geeky cousin. Linux has yet some ground to cover before there is a Linux user in every office/family. Till we get there, “Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks” can act as the guide for freedom-lovers world over.

The only reason why I hadn’t written about the book for so long was because I thought it improper to “plug” a book when I was the technical reviewer. I still wanted to talk about — now seems an appropriate time, since it has been released for a while now, and going by the comments on Amazon, and elsewhere on blogs and websites, it seems to be a hit within its chosen demographic.

At times, I get this terrible itch to write a book myself (Ubuntu Hacks? – but there is a book with that title out there already). The good news is that I don’t have to wait – I have a huge dissertation waiting to be written 😉

No, I am not in Iraq December 5, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about.

Indeed, there have been rumours that I have been sent to Iraq in a comment posted on this blog, but that is not true.

The past two months were spent trying to meet deadlines.

I failed. Now the hill is the same but the climb is steeper. I am talking about my Ph.D. of course. Signing up for a Ph.D. is a gamble of sorts, with many variables. The odds are stacked against me, and it all came to head on Friday. Friday being the deadline for submitting the intent to graduate form. I haven’t submitted it, which means I won’t be graduating next semester. Needless to say I was feeling beat on Friday. Now I am feeling much better, in a Nietzsche-esque fashion. Bring it on, I’ll take it 🙂

To get back to Ubuntu – you might have noticed the paucity of the regular tips that I used to post around here. My work in the recent past has forced me to use Windows, in order to use a vendor tool that works only with Windows. So that’s where I’ve been hanging out. I haven’t been triaging bugs, or posting to the fridge either.

I had put everything else on hold, and dedicated myself to the most important task at hand. That did not work so great. There is no quantitative (or qualitative?) way to measure my performance when I:

  • a) do only One Thing as opposed to
  • b) when I dedicate myself to A Few Things

I have been thinking that there has to be a few things you do that reward you in the short term to keep you happy and satisfied with life in general. When you are happy, you might do a better job at everything, not just the few things that give you satisfaction. All theories, I know.

Another reason why I stopped blogging here was because in the beginning, I had decided that I would not be a regurgitator of well-known facts or news. As the standards rose, there was very little that passed the filter. I wouldn’t have written this post, but today, over coffee, I decided to resume writing here, and to get over the block, decided to write my mind. To all the readers who have found this blog useful, or read it regularly and write me encouraging comments — Thank you.

Now in your Universe! August 23, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about, ubuntu.

I applied for Ubuntu membership and made it. Membership allows me to write at the Fridge and for these posts here to appear at the planet. The SABDFL had said previously that this blog should be on the planet.

Of course, this blows my anonymity, but I guess that’s okay. I’ll try and learn to appreciate any flames and personal invectives, and personal problems that come my way due to this blog 😉

By way of introduction, besides writing this blog, I love working on Bugs – triaging them mostly. In regular life, I am a Ph.D. student at the Computer Architecture lab at UCF. I am not much of a software guy, more a jack of all trades. My work revolves around the analysis of fault tolerant computing on reconfigurable architectures. I hope to graduate within the next two semesters. The job hunt has just begun. The most difficult part of beginning the job hunt is to figure out the industry/field/domain where my acquired skills and knowledge will be most appreciated. Then there is the question of things I really want to do with the rest of my life. How many jobs really let one change the world for the better in a direct way?

See you around, then!

Now with a podcast February 16, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about, ubuntu.

I set things up at feed2podcast.com to create a podcast for this blog. How cool is that? I think they use the festival text-to-speech program to create the podcast, since the voice sounds vaguely familiar!

The feed URL is: http://www.feed2podcast.com/podcast/51430654.xml
Click here to play in the Free Podcast Player.

The feed for the podcast
Subsribe to the Podcast with iTunes on Windows

On Writing Here February 7, 2006

Posted by Carthik in about, ubuntu.

This is a “meta” entry and has little to do with improving the Ubuntu experience of advanced users, so feel free to skip this, if you will 🙂 I will be flatterred if you read and respond, though.

Why do I write here?
Three reasons:
1. I like to keep notes regarding how things work for my own future (sort of like a linear log).
2. I like helping others in some strange way.
3. I like to write.

How do I find topics/ideas?
Three ways:
1. Personal trouble-shooting or usage experience
2. Posts from the ubuntu-users mailing list from over a month ago. I have subscribed to ubuntu-users using gmail. I havea label setup for the emails. I read the posts in the order made (right now I am 5 months behind!!), and label interesting emails with a “to-blog” label, which I then brush up, add references and write up at the blog. Needless to say, since I read pretty much every email sent to the mailing list, this is a time-consuming process.
3. Articles and tips I come across while googling for solutions, or just random browsing around.

I try to consciously avoid posting links to entire articles on the other Linux blogs and online magazines. I hate it when I see the same article linked to from other new-sites or magazines without any new addition to the discussion. I think that is a very lame and lazy thing to do. I particularly dislike sites which “aggregate” posts from other websites using a feed-to-blog interface of some sort. I am not talking about planets as much as re-blogging sites. Even osnews, lxer, etc resort to adding one articles which are just links to articles on other sites. Lame! My interest in writing on this blog is to provide internet users with new ideas, tips and news. Articles on the popular linux mags, reviews etc are popular enough on their own. What difference can a person with a weblog with approx 3000 visits a day (me) make by linking to a popular linux magazine? A far greater number of readers should be reading those articles direct from the source anyways!

I really like All About Linux since in general the articles there are original and that, dudes, takes some effort.

Now, I am thinking of adding a new source of articles – user requested guides or answers to newbie questions that seek to understand HOW things work, not how to install foo, or how to “fix” an error. If you guys would like to know something which you would be afraid to ask in a forum, or a mailing list for fear of being criticised, then please feel free to ask.

I remember the first question I had when I used Linux on a temporary basis was “Where the hell do I store my documents and such?, where are the ‘c:\’ and the “\My Documents” folders?” Over time, I have come to know that unlike in Windows where you are free to store your files anywhere, and thus liable to forget where you stored what, in Linux you start from an empty /home/you/ directory. Creating a directory structure there to store the different kinds of files you have is an exercise in organizing, and something that will later help you remember where you put some file. I have a very neat structure now, with /home/me/ containing the directories “documents” “mail” “media” “software” and “websites”. Each of those directories have directories in them. “documents” has “work”, “school”, “personal” and “oddball” and “media” has “audio”, “video”, “wallpapers”, “photos” and “ebooks”.
So it all looks like

| |-work
| |-school
| |-personal
| |-oddball
| |-audio
| |-video
| |-wallpapers
| |-photos
| |-ebooks
| |-work
| |-personal
| |-sent
| |-some-software
| |-other-software
….. and so on.

I had been so ashamed to ask this question that I knew must have a oh-so-obvious answer. If I can save you time and effort in answering a few simple questions, then please do ask. I can assure you that I will not be able to answer all questions – I will answer only the simple ones, and ones that will more than just one person- in short I don’t know why the version of firefox you compiled all by yourself crashed (though I think it must be something obvious….), but I can tell you how the filesystem is organized the way it is in Linux, and to a limited extent, provide a common-sensical explanation as to why it is that way. So ask away. If you are shy to ask by leaving a comment, send me an email at ubuntonista@gmail.com.

Do you agree with me, do you disagree? Do you think the posts here are too mundane, and not “geeky” enough? Would you like to read regurgitated stuff here too? What are your thoughts. I would hate to think that I am wasting all the time I could spend lazing on my couch by writing here. I know a few readers who leave comments here regularly, but that accounts for perhaps 20 out of the 3000 readers who pass by these pages everyday. I am curious about you – what do you like, and dislike about what you se here? I’ll be overjoyed to know. 🙂