Friday, June 30, 2006

Debian etch/sid Bug: 359328

Bug #359328 is an irritating bug which has plagued in Debian since the move from 6.9 to 7.0. The most irritating part of the migration is the Bug which involves getting Direct Rending Infrastructure working with the Intel 810 and 915 graphics cards. I've been wrestling with this bug now for a couple of months, trying to get it solved. I can't blame Debian however because the problem seems to be with upstream packages. Here's what's happening from what I gathered from bits and pieces from the Internet.

  • Debian migrates to 7.0
  • 7.0 is a modular approach to the X-Server
  • All X "drivers" now exist as separate packages. To use the "i810" driver I now need to install the xserver-xorg-video-i810 package which will install the i810 driver for The same holds for input devices too.
  • DRI now depends on Mesa which has not been updated to cater to Xorg 7.0, or atleast not for the Intel chipsets
  • The Mesa developers have made the required changes which are required for the intel chipsets but the changes are in CVS but have not made an official release.
  • Debian can't provide CVS based packages as it goes against the Debian packaging principles.

So Debian folk are basically stuck until the kind Mesa dev's decide to release with the i810 changes. The Ubuntu people however do not mind using the CVS based packages. Now if you are stuck with the same problem , here's the solution:

Get the following packages from Debian Experimental. If you can't get them from there they are also available here.

  • libgl1-mesa-dri_6.5.0.cvs
  • libglu1-mesa_6.5.0.cvs
  • libgl1-mesa-glx_6.5.0.cvs

Download them , shutdown the X Server and install them using 'dpkg'. Restart X and run 'glxinfo' and verify whether 'Direct Rendering' is enabled. You should be able to see it in the top of the text output which 'glxinfo' spews out. You should be able to see something like:

topa@anduril:~$ glxinfo
name of display: :0.0
display: :0 screen: 0
direct rendering: Yes

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

ILUGC Community Work

In chennai this weekend and I got to meet the ILUGC regulars in Gandhi Mandapam. It was not like any of the normal LUG meets wherein people come over to IIT, talk tech and leave. This time it was a more informal meeting with the agenda being the discussion of future ILUGC community activities. More such meetings with a community development focus would be interesting. Will upload pics later as my mobile phone's USB cable is back in B'lore.

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community, ILUGC, Chennai LUG

Monday, June 19, 2006

Web-Marker - Firefox extension to mark and share web-pages

Web-Marker user's and fans(there must be some), if you want to help spread the word on the firefox extension, help us by digging for it. The Digg link is here. Below is the announcement on Digg.

The extension acts as a marker pen for the web. It allows the user to mark multiple ranges of text content, on a web-page, and generate a link to the marked page. This link can be used in the same manner as normal links.The receiver of the link should also have the extension installed to view the marked web-page.

read more | digg story

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Saturday, June 17, 2006


Tabblo, brain child of Ned Batchelder is a new photos-sharing Web 2.0 app which is similar to flickr and zooomr. Tabblo however is different in a way as it allows tabblo-users to publish photo-pages called 'Tabblos'. Why the wierd name and what it means I have no idea, but it does seem to cater to solving one interesting problem which people have faced with photo-sharing services on the Web and that is "How do I structurize my photostreams ?". Well flickr has a concept called photosets wherein the user can club a number of photos to make a set but still that doesn't convey much. What if I want to have a commentary style photoset ? flickr doesn't provide me that. I could also write a blog entry and pull in flickr photos, but that's trying to get two minolithic web-apps to behave well with each other and usually involve lot of low-level stuff like getting the flickr url and using it in the blog-entry, possible but not usable. Trying to create a simple way to write commentaries for photosets is exactly the problem that tabblo is trying to solve.

The Service

Before I show you how a tabble looks like, some information (mini-review ?) about the website. The web-site is written in django, a web-framework written in python. The site has that Web 2.0 AJAX-y look and feel to it. The site however seems to be slow , which could either be due to python or due to the large amount of asynchronous processing (AJAX) happening in the background. If you don't have a fat pipe to the internet, forget it, stuff seems to be taking ages. Enough of Tabblo bashing, some good points. It has seemless integration with flickr and that's what really matters as I don't want to be re-uploading all my photos to a new web-service often. I would much prefer if my data can be shared by web-services easily (that's another topic for another day). Anyway, it managed to integrate with flickr without any problems , I didn't even have to give it my flickr(yahoo) login crdentials, guess it look them from the flickr cookie. It managed to get the first 20 photos and the rest of my 250+ photos seem to taking time appearing on the tabblo website. My tabblo photos can be seen here.

Creating Tabblo's

Creating Tabblo's is very important as the USP of the site is creating personal mash-up's of photosets. This however can sometimes get to be a usability problem. The site's "BETA" tag is very much evident as the interface can do with some performance tuning. The current interface is so clunky and at times it's almost unusable due to the heavy AJAX involved. It however tries to be a full blown webapp but like all web-apps this one seems to be slow and un-responsive at times. It is however a beta so I guess this is expected.

OTOH, The site provides templates (much like the templates) for the tabblo's and some pretty good layouts are available for the user to choose from while creating the tabblo. The tabblo creation process however could be time consuming depending on the number of photos you want to display. The UI comes with a irritating sidebar which follows you when you scroll down the page. It can however be made to go away with the help of a click. The biggest problem is that each "action" you perform on the tabblo is accompanied by a server-request messagebox which tends to slow up the thought flow of the user. There also seems to be another usability problem, if I'm editing a taboo and I navigate away from the edit page, and return back to the edit page(back button) all my edits are lost. It would be a good idea if each edit can be saved on the server during the "message-box" process. I managed to make a tabblo of Roslyn Chapel. You can view it here.

Tabblo on the whole looks promising. But there are lot's of usability issues due to the AJAX jazz and that could turn off people who have a low level of patience. I will however be using tabblo to share some interesting pictorial stories. For updates on tabblo you can subscribe to the tabblo blog.

Technorati Tags: tabblo, beta software, web 2.0, flickr, photo sharing, web apps, roslyn chapel, cool, django, python

Roslyn Chapel

Tabblo: Roslyn Chapel

Left: The entrance to Roslyn Chapel. ... See my Tabblo>

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Laptop Cleanliness

Macbook users now need to take a bath before they start using their laptops.

I'm just glad I'm not buying one.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Web-Marker is a hit!

Numbers don't lie. Web-Marker reached the 1500+ download mark in 2 days , liveurls reached the same in 2 months!

If you've not yet tried out Web-Marker, what are you waiting for ? GO GO GO!. And while you are there, please rate the extension. :P

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Microsoft and it's people

There are two faces of Microsoft, one is the corporate one which tries to fool people through it's PR. (read this on why it's bad) The other is the people face who are similar to the hackers of the FOSS world, i.e there are some interesting people in MS which everyone in the computing world respects.

Dave Cutler is one among them, so are Kim Cameron and Ray Ozzie. I'm sure there are many, like the people who work on the .Net development team ,who write the world's most famous development platform and the same people who work closely with the mono team on the ECMA standards. It's these people whom I root for, not because they help a multi-million behemoth sell millions of dollars worth of software packaged in cardboard boxes but because these are the same people who make sure that technology prevails at all costs, even if it's proprietary technology. Proprietary software and free-software will always have to co-exist, I don't think we can discount that fact, sure the percentage-numbers might change but both have their place in the computing world.

Coming to the point, Robert Scoble was one such guy whom I was beginning to respect as a Micosoft employee, an uber-celebrity in the blogging world and a person who was entrusted with the responsibility of hand-holding MS as it entered the Web 2.0 paradigm. The Econoimist once termed him Microsoft's Chief Humanising Officer. Through his blog Scobelizer , he managed to reach millions of people not as a MS PR guy but as a normal g33k talking about the cool stuff his employer was upto. Well, all was going well until when Robert Scoble decided to leave MSFT for . It happens very rarely when one person manages to change the outlook of a whole organization with his honest criticism and it's much more rarer that such an initiative continues to last forever. In Scoble's case it lasted for a few years and during that time he managed to tell the online world that MS was, something more than a laptop trotting marketing organization out to get your money.

On why Scoble left MS, Dave Winer has an interesting take through this blog-entry. But I guess it's better to read the official announcement from the man himself.

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Web-Marker 0.1

Sometime back Nata and me released a mozilla firefox extension called liveurls which allowed a user to create links out of normal textual web-content. We received a lot of feedback from the Firefox community and users. We took all that feedback and pondered for a few days on how to improve the extension. Some points which came up during the feedback phase were.

  • Ability to highlight and bookmark content so that when a user revists the page the next time the "state" of the web-page is retained and the user is able to identify which is the important content he had earlier marked through highlights.
  • Ability to highlight multiple sections of a webpage.
  • Ability to navigate between multiple highlights.
  • Ability to clear a highlight without reloading the page.

All of the above are really good feature-adds to the liveurls extension. So, announcing now, the next avatar of the liveurls extension.. WEB-MARKER. We demoed web-marker at the WWW2006 conference and got some really great feedback. We have been spending the last week ironing out bugs and making it release-ready. It's now finally here and available through Mozilla Addons at this page. Go ahead install it, play with it and drop in your feedback. Also,remember to uninstall the old liveurls extension before installing web-marker. Liveurls development will be discontinued.

Oh! another thing, if you find web-marker useful(or useless) drop in a rating for the extension at the web-marker homepage.

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w00t! Audioslave , the alternate rock supergroup has an RSS feed of the official site's news. Maybe the first rock band to have one.

Speaking of Audioslave, their next album "Revelations" seems to be gearing up for a september release. More coverage at

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dell XPS M1210

I've been in the laptop market for a couple of years now, researching and waiting for that one perfect laptop to be available which will give me the best of both worlds, portability and performance. I started off with the Intel Prescott based laptops as they had heat issues and were available for dirt-cheap at one point of time, I then looked at Acer and HP's AMD Turion based laptops, I spent days researching over various Centrino based ones but couldnt decide on one. Suffice to say, I could never make up my mind on which laptop to buy as there was not one perfect laptop which would have satisfied me in all aspects a personal computer can.

That laptop was finally announced a week back, the Dell XPS m1210. I've ordered one from Dell India. That makes me the first person to have ordered a PC from the Dell XPS line in India (atleast the sales guy claimed so). Anyway, the lappie is expected in 15-20 days.

Dell XPS 1210

Some of it's important features of my laptop include:

  • Intel Core Duo 1.83 GHz processor T2400
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 100 GB HDD
  • Nvidia GeForce Go 7400
  • 12.1" WXGA (Widescreen 1280x800)
A perfect laptop as a desktop replacement and at the same time perfectly portable.

The weight should come to around 4.8 pounds which should make it almost-portable and the only problem I see here is the 12.1" screen which can get a bit small, but since it's a widescreen and portable I guess it's a fair compromise.

The other laptops I considered during this time were the Lenovo V100 (review) and the Apple Macbook. The Lenovo lost out because of the unimpressive build quality and the Macbook received a thumbs-down because of the heat problems. The final decision was actually a tough one to make, on one hand was this gorgeous beauty and on the other was a roaring performer. This blog-post by Mark Pilgrim and the comments within it helped me finalize on the Dell. Also Dell's build quality and the fact that ASUS is behind the manufacture of the XPS laptop line gave me confidence. The XPS M1210 casing is the same as ASUS's top-of-the-line laptops. If I had got a macbook, I would have been running Firefox and gVim on it for most of my needs. Also the fact that Apple doesn't allow me to install Linux (easily) put me off, Linux today on the macbook is a hack at best. People looking for a laptop in the 60-70K should consider the DELL m1210.

For me this laptop is a long-time commitment, a laptop which should last atleast three years and this looks like it's outfitted with the right stuff to last much longer. has a wonderful review. The forums on were also helpful.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Flickr Pro User

I'm now a Flickr Pro user.

Why? , turns out once you have 200+ photos in your flickr account, only the latest 200 photos turn up on the user page. Since I want all my photos available at all times I had to turn pro.

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Diaper Drake's

NOTE: This is not a review. These are just my views based on "reviews" from friends and other community members.

So Diaper(Dapper) Drake is making a lot of noise in the FOSS world since it got released on June 1. Lot of people have migrated over from Fedora Core ,Mandrake and Gentoo and they seem to be loving it. Me ? NO!, I'll be sticking with Ye Old Swirl. That baby has a lot of juice still left in it.

Back to Diaper(oops Dapper), this looks pretty solid for a server release. The first line of the server page tells the reader that Ubuntu is sticking deep to it's roots (which is good). Next there's the presence of the one-click-LAMP-Server installation (eeks!), which installs a full blown LAMP server and there's the minimal installation, which just just installs the core packages. The minimal install seems to be called a "server" install but amusingly doesn't install any "server" packages. A little confusing for normal users but old school debian admins will get the logic behind the naming. ;)

They still seem to be sticking with the whole non-root thingy and requires all apt based functionality to be 'sudo-ed'. Not sure if the minimal install process has a root account. Makes sense for linux newbies but that's a turn off for me. I know when to use root and when not to.

The Desktop users seems to be quite gung-ho about this release but I see no reason how it's different from Breezy. There seems to be a better(GUI) installer but an installer is no more an issue for desktop-linux, nor is the LTS thingy a major reason for desktop users to move from Breezy. If you are a desktop user you will want the latest software as fast as possible not bug fixes for ancient gnome packages. On the whole, there's no major reason why a bleeding edge linux desktop user should migrate to Dapper apart from the latest (and greatest) versions of GNOME and kernel. The enterprise-desktop users, OTOH would be interested. Kubuntu seems to be the latest official release for the Kuser's and there's even Xubuntu for the xfce-loving , PII hugging folk.

On the whole, a great release from the Ubuntu team, solid, solid, solid release but not enough in terms of new ground breaking features to migrate old-school desktop linux users to Ubuntu. The server and the enterprise market should have a look and will be interested. Me ? , I'll wait for the next Ubuntu release, Edgy Eft, the bleeding edge itchy one.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Debian Mashup

I run a hybrid Debian system and maintaining it sometimes gets to be a major PITA when it comes to meeting un-met dependencies across the three debian distributions. The Debian apt guide is an invaluable reference material when running a hybrid-bleeding-edge distro.

Today however, I came across this article which details the important points when trying to maintain a hybrid desktop distro with all the bells and whistles.

NOTE: Don't try this on a production box. If you want a "just-works" linux distro (linux for mortals) try this.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Amateur Photography Question

What's the best method of taking travel photographs ?

With the person (traveller) in the photograph or without him ?
For me the photos I take are to re-live that moment and maintain a digital capture. Having a "person" in that digital-memory spoils the whole nostalgic experience.
I tried to test out Yahoo! Answers so posted the question there. The responses seem to indicate a 50-50 split. You can find the open question here.
I've left the question open and not picked a "best answer" yet. Looks like there's not going to be a "Best Answer" for this question.
You can leave a yahoo answer or leave a comment below.


My favourite online RSS feed reader just got way cooler.
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Thursday, June 01, 2006

MacBook Multi OS

Watch the video below to see how three Operating System can co-exist on a Macbook at the same time.

This is done using Parallels Workstation.

Pics and Vidz

Final set of the WWW2006 Conference pics are available here. I've updated the old set with new ones which include Roslyn Chapel of Da Vinci Code fame.

Some videos which I managed to grab are up on You Tube.
Here are the individual links:

View from Carlton Hill in Edinburgh
View of the city from Edinburgh Castle
Conference Opening Ceremony Part 1
Conference Opening Ceremony Part 2

Please leave your comments in the corresponding pic/video.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. My Way My blog. Toufeeq Hussain