A happy rant

I have been using Ubuntu for a long time on my personal laptop, and I was okay with using Unity in the beginning. But over the course of time, I was losing interest, given the boot-up and response time issues. I liked the HUD concept, and the dock. But I was never a fan of the dash. And the lenses, no way.

I experimented using multiple other desktops, including Ubuntu Gnome, Mate and Elementary. I was not very happy with the Gnome3 anyway. I went back to XFCE, but did not settle. One of the problems I faced was with the input methods for Malayalam. I guess Elementary seriously has the potential to be next big thing in the desktops. Especially Geary and Midori. They've got great sense of design and usability. But even then, I wouldn't want to switch back to gnome world for now.

That's when I gave KDE a try, and it's been my primary desktop from this year. Back in early 2000's KDE was my primary desktop. Although I preferred that old school non-plasma KDE, I was fine with my own customized version of KDE SC4 without much of bells and whistles. Of late, attempted KDE Plasma 5 which actually has superb response time. But I decided to wait for a lot more stable version, before trying again. Both Elementary Pantheon and KDE Plasma 5 looked really promising in their own ways. But I did not want to go for either of them.

It was in this context, that I looked for an alternative. This is one thing that I should boast of being a GNU/Linux user. The plethora of choices and variety of solutions!!

I was looking for something that's focussed on usability at the same time customizable to a good extend. Clearly, I did not want to go back to Gnome 3, or XFCE. I wanted quick response, light weight desktop. Minimal, but with some options to be decorative at times. So that's how I went about. Landed on razor-qt first, and then to LxQt. When it comes to building GUI application development, I think Qt should be the way to go, rather than Gtk. Object oriented design is cleaner, and better. Less code, less hassles.

LxQt is my primary desktop currently, with openbox as the window manager. By the way, KWin also works pretty well. But I preferred openbox this time, given the simplicity. One thing I miss is tiling. KDE will stay here, as a  standby.

I will continue to watch the LxQt space for next releases.


Export the mobile contacts to excel sheet

Here's just another tech tip, in case you are of my type, someone who enjoys the freedom of using Gnu/Linux to get your personal work done. If you want to transfer the contact details from your phone to the computer, and probably upload to google docs - here is a simple way. I use Wammu to connect the mobile phone usually over bluetooth, and to create a backup of the contacts. I used a script which is available at this link:
So, here are my steps:
1. Create a backup of your phone contacts using Wammu, let's call the file Wammu.backup. This file is a binary file, but can be viewed in any standard text editor like vim/emacs.
2. Open the file using an editor which supports saving text in ASCII or unicode UTF-8. I use Gedit. Save the file as ascii or utf-8, as Wammu.txt.
3. Run the flip tool to get into text format which can show work with tools like grep. Make sure 'grep Name Wammu.txt' gives you  some result.
4. Rename the file into ConvertMe.txt.
mv Wammu.txt ConvertMe.txt
5. Run the tool convert.pl to generate the csv file of your contacts
./convert..pl >  mydata.csv
6. Customize the csv file as you need it. I use a dirty awk one liner.
cat mydata.csv | awk -F'"' {' print "\""$2"\"""," "\""$4"\"""," "\""$6"\"""," "\""$8"\""","  '} > mydata_updated.csv
This basically provides you a much simpler Name, number format.
7. Open the mydata_updated.csv file in open office spreadsheet, and if required convert to excel format.
8. If you like it, import to google docs.
Well that's it for now.


Anti-Corruption Episode

Today I received a lot emails, asking me to forward them to support the cause! Hence this post. 

While expressing the support to Anna Hazare's on this issue, I would say the way it is generally handled by our media sometimes kind of over-simplifies the whole issue.  

Corruption is much more deep rooted - and it is something that even we are actively or passively being part of. We cannot be hypocritical and limit the problem only to politicians (or to bureaucrats).  The reports of politicians 'banned' from the stage itself is so strange.

It really surprises me when this is being propagated by Anna Hazare and the new leaders as a 'non-political' event!! Why are we afraid to vote out 'corrupt' politicians and give a chance to the 'non-corrupt' ones? If the answer is we don't know any non-corrupt politicians, then why are we not forming a clean party and start it over!! Oh, not that easy - isn't it? 


BSNL 3G on Ubuntu rocks

One more (much delayed) post on my experiments with Ubuntu. Earlier I had written on how easy was to setup BSNL EVDO device with my ubuntu laptop. And this time it is BSNL 3G connection on Ubuntu, and it as been delightfully easy to setup.

It's a UMTS third generation connectivity which offers much better bandwidth compared to GPRS or EDGE. BSNL (and may be MTNL too) is the first to implement this in India, and other service providers are catching up - we have just finished reading in the news papers on the 3G spectrum auction and stuff. The BSNL website provides on the tarrif and other details here, and the SIM card just costs Rs.59/-.

I bought a Huawei USB modem which was instantly regonized and setup by my Jaunty. This device supports sending and receving SMS, but not making voice calls using from the PC - which is okay for me since my primary intend is just to browse the internet. The configuration is done with very few clicks. Simply use the network management applet on the desktop panel..and enter the dial in number as *99# and APN as 'bsnlnet'.. and click  Apply button, that's it, done.

You can find the details of your modem by lsusb command on the shell, it should print the modem details, in this case Huawei - as in this output

$ lsusb
Bus 007 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 002 Device 004: ID 12d1:140c Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
Bus 002 Device 002: ID 090c:3714 Feiya Technology Corp.

This internet connection is pretty fast and serves well for my practical purposes that includes everyday browsing (including youtube videos without any buffering delays), my office VPN and little bit of downloading. I can say, it gives almost 1Mbps.. but download speeds around 120-200 KB/s. Well, the wireless connections are known for their inconsistent speeds, and my observations could not be very accurate. Still my overall experience with this has been very good. I would suggest configuring KPP for dialing into the network, since it provides this nice 'Accounting' features and helps you to keep a tab on the usage. Another free tool umtsmon might also be a good option.

I occasionally use Wammu for sending and receiving sms, and for other SIM management stuff.. It 's cool and suits well for my needs. I used the "Phone Wizard" to configure the modem details (device to use :  /dev/ttyUSB0, make : huawei -  for example) and it is a just a self explanatory simple interface.

Okay, just wrapping up my quick notes here. Bye for now!


Bloom Box!

Saw this interesting report in today's Hindu - the bloom box. Thought of bookmarking it here. I 've not yet read about its principle of operation or any other details, but all that I could guess now is that it would be something like a fuel cell. And that can generate power for normal household needs, interesting!

Here is my plan!
Read this on weekend!
And watch this video.


BSNL EVDO on Ubuntu-9.04 made easy!

It is time to knock off all your skepticism about using GNU/Linux; it is equally (if not better) equipped to meet most of the general purpose computing requirements for an average user. Believe me, I have been using Ubuntu-9.04 on my laptop, and till now I have not come across a situation which forces me to have another OS, say MS Windows.

Here is one more reason to reinforce my belief.

Recently I had to connect to the internet while away from home. I was looking for a internet connection for temporary use, and soon landed onto a BSNL EVDO device borrowed from a friend.

The next question was how to get the EVDO USB device (ZTE make) work with my laptop running Ubuntu-9.04. Google search results took me towards lengthy articles detailing how to probe for our USB device, configure wvdial.conf etc. But NO! Time to be updated, all those steps are not required any more.

Here is how I configured the ZTE EV-DO device, that took not even a minute!

  1. Right click on the NetworkManager tray icon.
  2. Click "Edit Connections" on the menu and choose the "Mobile Broadband" tab.
  3. Select "Auto Mobile Broadband (CDMA) connection" & click "Edit"
  4. Type-in the details - Number : #777, Username and Password and click "Apply" button.
  5. Left click on the NetworkManager tray icon again and click "Auto Mobile Broadband (CDMA) connection".
  6. Yes, done! You will find the connection notification on the right corner soon. You could disconnect any time using the "Disconnect" from the menu when you left click on the NetworkManager tray icon.

Happy web browsing!

I found this EV-DO connection fast enough for normal requirements. On 2wire speed meter it showed ~100Kbps at BTM Layout, where as at Koramangala speed touched ~384 Kbps. The speed is not found to be consistent like a wired connection, and may not be suitable if you have specific bandwidth requirements.

Before doing the above steps you could check the /var/log/ to make sure that the ZTE device is detected by Ubuntu.
$sudo tail -f /var/log/messages


Saw these steps on this forum too.


Avatar : A Dreamwalk

It is difficult to remember when awake, what you have seen in a dream. Dreams used to be like some animated movies having a mix of realist images with distorted, in multi layered, extra colourful backgrounds and sometimes abstract shapes doing wonderful, weird acts. That's how my dreams have been, and I believe it is so for others too. And why am I talking about dreams here?

Because when I watched the movie "Avatar" on last Wednesday night, I felt like I was caught up inside a dream. Listen for our paraplegic protagonist Jack Sully's voice over in the begining : he had dreamt that he would fly one day.

A must watch - classic movie - with unimaginable visuals and computer graphics. The 3D boosts the scenes with an enhanced appeal to the visuals - feels like you are in the forest, where the leaves and fluorescent creatures float around you! Yes, a must watch (in theatre ; that ambience is very much required).

Hollywood hits have always been well-known for their technical perfection. But this one is not just about that; I felt it has a philosophical edge too.

You get so involved with the Na`vis, their culture, beliefs, bonding with nature around them and their respect for life. Look at mantra's the sing even when they were forced to kill animals - when attacked! These things are taken in cleverly from our own earthly life, from our own culture, for an example I could say - from the very old inhabitants, the native tribes. It shows how devastating can a intrusion be to the indigenous people. Isn't this a criticism towards colonisation, and exploitation of natural resources?

The movie has a mix of all obvious, familiar ingredients; but is it putting forward a socio political message - of the need to have a "real" green life? Is it pointing finger at the militarism and the greed of over-industrialism?

Personally, the idea of "bio-botanical neural network" spread over all the living organisms from trees to brains - appeared really fascinating to me! Look at the massive attack launched against humans by Pandora's wildlife. Imagine if such a attack happens on Earth - haven't we scored enough to deserve it :-) !!

Okay, that's it for now! Signing off!