Ubuntu

The "Windows"-fication of Gnome

For a while I have been puzzled why Nautilus doesn’t allow me to simply unmount an USB pen drive from the context menu. The only options I could see for USB pen drives was - eject and safely remove drive, which was puzzling on its own as them meant the same to me. Selecting “eject” or “safely remove” drive does the same thing for USB drives - it unmounts the drive and powers it down.

DNS resolver changes in Ubuntu Precise (12.04)

One of the first things that irked me after my Precise installation was how DNS suddenly seemed slow. I normally use dnscache for local DNS caching and while setting it up this time, I noticed that oddly, 127.0.0.1 was already setup as my name server. Netstat told me that this was handled by DNSMasq for some reason. No worries, I thought, and I setup dnscache on 127.0.0.2 instead. I added the IP to the prepend nameserver option in /etc/dhcp/dhclient.

Ubuntu's ongoing UI meltdown

I kept reading and reading Mark Shuttleworth’s post of how Ubuntu plans to replace menus with something called HUD display. And all I could do is take deep sighs. To summarise, in the new “advanced” Ubuntu releases, instead of clicking the traditional menus, you have to type in a few words in a special screen every time, and select from a drop-down which pops down. What is the problem that they are trying to solve?

Fedora 15 Fixes

Spending all my time at work with Redhat’s suite of products and at the same time sticking to having my primary working OS to be Ubuntu was causing too much dissonance. So I finally decided to move to Fedora as my primary OS after 6 years of Ubuntu. My guess was that as a desktop user, beyond packaging issues, the transition is going to be minimal. But as with any new release, there are always some niggling issues, and I am going to document them here in one place as I continue to find them.

Restart/Shutdown your Linux machine using dbus

Ok. This is fairly trivial stuff for many of you, but what I found interesting is that the SystemBus lets you shutdown/restart/suspend/hibernate as an ordinary user. Of course, if you think of a desktop, that is a pretty basic expectation of what an ordinary end-user should be able to do. But when I think about a server, the thought that people can bypass a sudo while doing a shutdown makes me uneasy.

Quick local DNS caching for your workstation in Ubuntu

The latest Ubuntu releases makes it real easy to set up a local DNS cache for your workstation using dnscache from the well-known djbdns software by D. J. Bernstein. For those who have historically installed djbdns/ucspi-tcp/daemontools from source because of distribution restrictions, things changed really for the better after DJB placed all these software in the public domain in 2007. You can now setup all this in about one minute! (depending on your Internet connection though.

Adding new CA certificates in Ubuntu (Jaunty)

A quick tip. I couldn’t find this from a quick search when I really needed it. The problem - command line programs like fetchmail use the system wide openssl CA certificates to verify the authenticity of the server certificates they are provided when they connect to an SSL server like POP3 or IMAP. Sometimes, you will have providers like Dreamhost, who will get smart and ditch the atrocious certificate issuing set up we have right now, and give you a self-signed certificate to verify their servers.

Using the official Flickr uploadr on Ubuntu

I normally use jUploader for uploading photos to Flickr from my Ubuntu Jaunty box. However, since I got the amazing Panasonic DMC-LX3 compact camera, I have been uploading HD videos too to Flickr. Now none of the FOSS tools that I know of support video right now. Since I insist on uploading photos in the order that I have taken them, it makes my photo upload workflow really messy - upload a few photos from jUploader, go to flickr.

Removing encryption from (legitimate!) PDF files on Ubuntu

Many service providers have started encrypting the statements that they send you. While at some level, it does add some amount of security when the path to your inbox is not very secure. However, it is sometimes a major pain when you want to archive your emails. This is because every provider has decided on a different secret to encrypt your PDF. So if one day you wish to access a statement of your phone bill from three months back, you have to look up the bill from your archive and read the mail to find out what they used to encrypt it.

Using ffmpeg on Ubuntu to convert DV videos for video sharing websites

To begin with, this is the problem that I had. I had recorded a short clip using my Panasonic NV-GS330 camcorder. I had to upload it to Vimeo, my video sharing website of choice. From the camcorder to the computer Importing the video from the camcorder to the laptop was not much of a problem. I plugged in the camcorder to my laptop using a firewire card. Then I used Kino to position the tape (the camcorder uses mini dv tapes) just before the beginning of the clip I wanted to import and hit the capture button.

Why I returned my Mac

I realize the title of this post is a bit provocative, but I could not think of any other way to put it. Some weeks back, I got a new Mac Book Pro at work. This was my first exposure to Apple’s computer products, and after the initial few moments of aah-ooh’s wore off, I started using it for what I was supposed to do - work. It so happens that after about a week of use, I returned the MBP and went back to the other standard (and much less expensive) HP notebook used in the company.

Giving up on bcm43xx in Gutsy beta

The only major issue that I have felt in my use of Ubuntu till date(and to be fair, this is not ubuntu specific) is the problems I keep having with wireless setup. I can live with any of it’s other flaws. In earlier releases, the problem had been WPA support. The default install didn’t have wpa_supplicant, and to install wpa_supplicant, you needed to have network first, dammit! So I had to run around looking for a network cable, sit next to my AP, patiently download the package, figure out the unnecessarily verbose documentation and finally set up the stuff(in two terminals, one keeping an eye on the messages of wpa_cli).

Moved over to Gutsy

Just upgraded my notebook to Gutsy a couple of days back. It is still in beta and would be released on 18th October. I recently changed my desktop over to Gnome from KDE. I have been a Kubuntu/KDE user for years, but the look and feel of KDE has remained tacky for a while now while Gnome had a very clean efficient look about it. But this also meant that I had the complete Gnome and KDE stack on my notebook, so I had to download about 1.

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.