The incoming Secureboot/Restrictedboot war

For those who aren’t aware of this, FSF (Free Software Foundation) has been running a campaign for the last few months about Microsoft’s malicious Secureboot initiative (which FSF calls restricted boot). Given the mostly Microsoft friendly corporate IT environments out there, I think this is one topic on which most employees should be very aware. A nice summary of the issue can be read up at: Apparently, Microsoft is practically arm-twisting OEM manufacturers to implement Secureboot to be able to install Windows 8 on their systems - it is a Windows 8 requirement.

Indian Open Standards policy finalized, with a major victory for the FOSS community

Amazing work by all the people involved! Venkatesh Hariharan reported on the Linux Delhi mailing list today: The open standards policy has been finalized and it incorporates many of the suggestions made by the FOSS community in India. In the previous draft dated 25/11/2009, our major objection was to section 4.1.2 of the policy which said. 4.1.2 The essential patent claims necessary to implement the Identified Standard should preferably be available on a Royalty-Free (no payment and no restrictions) basis for the life time of the standard.

The magical moment that made me a FOSS guy forever

11 years back, I was just yet another guy out of college with a background of Turbo C/C++ and Pascal as most other batchmates of mine. My software career could have gone anywhere. PC Quest Linux was just a toy with which I was playing with but wasn’t too much attached to yet. A stroke of good luck helped me get an opportunity to work with one of my close school friends - Inder, who introduced me to PHP 3.

Apple is as big a threat to FOSS as Microsoft

Many FOSS enthusiasts do not realize is that Apple is as, if not more, significant threat than Microsoft in the war for software freedom. Most of the technical arguments that FOSS evangelists have, fall apart when you are talking about Apple and Mac Os X. Mac Os X has very less, if not none, of the perceived instability of Windows. Default applications bundled with the OS do quite a decent job for many users.

Discussing Paul Graham's essay on software patents

Thanks to Saurabh’s mail on ILUGD, found out about this nice essay by Paul Graham on software patents. Not being much of a lawyer or an expert on these things, but nevertheless having a conviction that software patents are evil, I have dared to comment on parts of this essay. Of course, you are right, whenever possible I have quoted out of context to put him at a disadvantage. :-P

The Microsoft Tax Refund campaign at ILUGD

ILUGD is presently furiously discussing a legal procedure to get refund for the Microsoft Tax applied to all desktops and laptops that you buy from the branded market in India. Here is a good definition of Microsoft Tax. Some relevant snippets for the impatient. The Microsoft tax is an unofficial, but commonly used term that refers to the licensing fee that Microsoft charges major suppliers of personal computers for each unit sold and that purchasers thus usually pay for such computers, regardless of whether or not they want or intend to use a Microsoft operating system.

ReCaptcha - Reusing the energy of fighting evil for social good

The other day I discovered reCAPTCHA , one of those really innovative nifty little ideas that warm my heart. Everyday all of us netizens use so much of our energy fighting the evils of spam - service providers keep warding off waves of attacks, while the users keep assuring providers through various means that they are not bots working on behalf on the dark side(read spammers). One of the ways of ensuring that the person accessing a web page is actually a human is to pass the CAPTCHA test.

Mark Shuttleworth on free and “non-free” Linux distros

Mark Shuttleworth writes in this blog post on a topic I get really emotional about: We have to work together to keep free software freely available. It will be a failure if the world moves from paying for shrink-wrapped Windows to paying for shrink-wrapped Linux. Go to any Linux event in India and you will find the sales force of Red Hat spending oodles of time pushing their “enterprise” Linux (nothing wrong with this) and trashing their free offering - Fedora (this is bad).

Ubuntu Edgy out in October end

Haven’t written in ages. So thought I would write down something that I am really looking forward to right now. My distro of choice Kubuntu/Ubuntu is releasing their latest on October 26. From this blog, the RC will be out on 19th Oct. I started using Dapper from RC release itself, and that is what I will be doing this time too.

The number of fonts in your KDE desktop might be slowing it down Now the problem is that KDE doesn’t need one font, but about five (monospace, sans serif fonts in different sizes). And as QFont is per process, every KDE/Qt application does this calculation from scratch. It very much depends on your setup of course, but let’s assume we do this for 10 applications in KDE startup. So doing 50 font matches (way too few, but I’m just trying to make a point): this makes 5 Billion instructions wasted on KDE startup.

Interesting wxpython case study

I have been busy in the last few days migrating my mind from web based apps to native apps. Currently, I am reading about wxpython as a possible answer. Here is an interesting post on the wxpython mailing list on how to use python + wxPython + Twisted + zope + XSLT. Also some discussion on the problems on using wxpython and twisted together because of threading conflicts.

Wordpress XML-RPC bug and Upgrade patch

A Serious XML-RPC bug has been discovered in PHP XML-RPC applications. Upgrade your PEAR library. Wordpress has come out with a new version fixing the problem. Unfortunately, they still don’t provide an easy way to upgrade. Here is the patch file to upgrade your Wordpress installation How to upgrade Wordpress in one step Download the patch file somewhere in your server. Change your current directory to your wordpress installation. Verify that your installation will get patched cleanly: patch -p1 --dry-run < /path/to/patchfile If no error reported in last step, finally patch the file: patch -p1 < /path/to/patchfile Yeah, I know.

Wordpress tinyurl plugin

I was in a quandary. I wanted the long permalinks for my blog posts,which made links self-describing and also search engine friendly. And I also wanted short URLs that I could pass on in emails. I share the sentiments of Andy Wibbels regarding TinyURL. Nothing against TinyURL personally, just that when you have your own domain name for your blog, wouldn’t you prefer using tiny urls using your own domain name?

Using svnreplicate

Here is an article that I have just written on using svnreplicate to replicate subversion repositories. svnreplicate allows you to have a single master repository, and multiple slave repositories. The document uses a walkthrough approach to explain how to configure svnreplicate. I must warn though that it only demonstrates the concept using master and slave repositories present in the same system(reachable using file:/// URLs). While I am sure that this should work over multiple hosts too, Yashpal Nagar, a friend of mine, is trying to get it to work over multiple hosts with svnserve.

Reformatted Bazaar docs

I have been converting the present Bazaar documentation to texinfo. At present I have converted two documents - Building Baz and Following Tux. The source is available at my Bazaar repository at . Under Generated PDF and HTML files are as follows: Building Baz: HTML PDF Following Tux: HTML PDF Bazaar howto: HTML PDF Update: June 8, 7:30 IST: I have converted all the present Bazaar docs.

Patching up Worpress 1.5.1 to fix feeds

So Wordpress just released to fix the RSS problem which has bitten me badly too. The trouble is that I am getting sick of their manual upgrade steps - backup, overwrite, restore, etc. etc. when the only changes have been to the core files! I wonder why they can’t release very minor releases (e.g. as patches. Even minor releases (e.g. 1.5.1) can be released as patches - the database changes can be handled using the upgrade script which can itself be available as a patch.

Greasemonkey - shaking up the web

Greasemonkey is currently not only just the hottest Firefox extension (or plugin) in town, it is also the most disruptive of all browser plugins. It beats me how nobody had thought of such a browser add-on before. Greasemonkey allows the user to change their experience on any website, on their own, without the help of the website developers themselves. It does this by modifying the website behavior using custom javascript that is added on top of the browser pages.

Nice short intro to Bazaar

Edd Dumbill has written a real nice short intro to the Bazaar - a reimplementation of GNU Arch revision control system. I have been getting tired of keeping up with new Subversion revisions and the mod_dav/mod_dav_svn module that I need to keep updating. By contrast Arch allows read only archives using plain HTTP. Most importantly it supports distributed repositories - this allows me to maintain a repository of system config in the servers that I manage, and sync them when I want with my home machine.

Bitkeeper plays spoil-sport. Linux looking for a new SCM

Amidst controversy over work done by Samba developer Andrew Tridgell, Linux is (about time) moving out of Bitkeeper, and looking for a new SCM. The short story is this. Background: For some time, Linux has been using the controversial Bitkeeper SCM tool for managing its source code. This was a completely closed source product, which was trying to bypass FLOSS arguments by offering a free hosted solution. For all this while, the proprietary Bitkeeper hosting the source code of the most popular FLOSS operating system - Linux, has been the biggest ironies of our times.

MaxMind donates its city database

The drupal blog mentions that: The company has agreed to release their cities of the world database under the GPL. The database contains locations by country, city, latitude and longitude. There are over 3,047,000 records in the database. The database seems to be at The MaxMind site also offers FLOSS software free access to their GeoIP database. As a way of giving back to the Open Source community, we offer a free subscription to GeoIP Country Binary API database updates for use by any widely used Open Source project for the purposes of selecting the closest download mirror.

Introduction to the Thoutreader ebook reader

I might be one of the last people to know about this, but here goes anyway. I was (yet again) at the MySQL website looking for the place to download the latest documentation, when I noticed this curious download link called Thoutreader format. Intrigued, I clicked on the link and it took me to the MySQL documentation download link at . Turns out that the OSoft ThoutReader is an opensource (GPL) Java based cross-platform ebook reader (Sourceforge project).

Ubuntu CDs cause Custom Troubles for Indian Linux enthusiast

Ubuntu Linux is a Linux distribution which Ubuntu promoters ship to enthusiasts all over the globe. The distribution was featured recently in a daily at Mysore. Excited by the article, Satish places an order for Ubuntu CDs at the Ubuntu shipit webpage. The CDs arrive promptly, and so does a show cause notice from the Indian customs department asking Satish to provide “Importer Code Number, Invoice, Purchase Order, Order Confirmation and Technical write-up” failing which he would be fined and/or have the goods confiscated.

My photos from Linux Asia 2004

Yes, it is over an year old now. I never posted them publicly because, frankly, I felt others had better cameras and better photos from the event. But rather than having them languish in some forgotten corner of my computer, I am uploading them to my Flickr account. So here is: Linux Asia 2004 - a photoset on Flickr

Hula Server - The New OSS Groupware Server in Town

Novell “open sources” its Netmail product to start off Hula Server - a new calendar and mail server available under both LGPL and MPL. Interestingly, the licence is the more permissive LGPL and not GPL. Perhaps, this is so that the result of the community work can be integrated into proprietary solutions like Novell’s own enterprise offerings. The screenshots look real pretty. I dont see any mention of Evolution in any of the initial pages.

CLI client for Hotwire Internet

After Hotwire Internet, my ISP in Delhi, shifted to a new web based login and a good bandwidth management solution, their uptime dramatically improved. After a while, the web login began to irritate me. I couldnt any more do the first thing I normally do in the morning - stretch my hands out underneath the rajai(warm blanket), grope for the power button, switch on the computer and squirm back into the cozy blanket waiting for the mails to get downloaded by the time I really get out of bed.

Video Conferencing On Linux

I have normally had a bad experience with multimedia related software till today. An expensive IBM PC camera has not been working for quite a while, so I had banished it to my family’s Windows XP machine. But I needed one to play with for my own FC3 linux box. My hardware dealer at first insisted that I try out a damn cheap Chinese cam costing Rs. 950. The package was as cheap as it could be made, but the demo that he showed me was impressive.

Extending Wordpress’s RSS excerpts

Wordpress has a queer default RSS excerpt limit of 50 words while creating rss feed content. And regardless of the “use full text” setting in the syndication section of the reading options, the description field of RSS, which is used by some news readers, is limited to this length. While syndicating content at - the ILUGD members blog aggregating site, I found out that all Wordpress sites were belching out tiny excerpts, while Drupal sites exported more content.

Opensource catalyzes a paradigm shift in the computer industry

Going through the daily drudgery of earning to survive, one always keep wondering - “where are we going with all this?” or “which way should I turn now?” or if you are a business, then “which way should we take today so that we are where others would try to flock to tomorrow?“. You are always crying out for a larger view of things. And from time to time, you find the words of someone else with a theory that can shed some light on that possible path.

(Word) Pressing the site!

Over the years I have tried various software to manage the content on my personal home page. From hand edited HTML, to a bunch of my own PHP scripts, to some *nuke software, and finally to Drupal. So why did I finally shift over to WordPress? The answer is simple - if all you would really be doing on your site is blog … get a blogging software. The blog module of Drupal is good, but: