Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lenovo Wifi behaviour still magical

The behaviour of the wifi on the Lenovo S10-3 continues to puzzle me. It continues to be magical and that feels uncomfortable. The magic is that I need to make the netbook sleep (Fn+F1) and then press the power button. Usually, the wifi will work. Occasionally, I need to repeat these steps.

This worked on Ubuntu netbook edition. It worked on Meego and Arch Linux. But I just haven't been able to get this magic to work on Smeegol from Suse.

There must be a difference. Looking at the logs, I found that if ACPI has an exception on waking from sleep state S3, bluetooth is recognised and wifi starts to work. The following extract from Ubuntu log file is indicative of each os.

Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  690.604909] Initializing CPU#1
Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  690.729043] CPU1 is up
Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  690.729260] ACPI: Waking up from system sleep state S3
Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  696.684074] ACPI Exception: AE_TIME, Returned by Handler for [EmbeddedControl] (20100428/evregion-474)
Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  696.684099] ACPI Error (psparse-0537): Method parse/execution failed [\_SB_.PCI0.LPCB.EC0_.DSSV] (Node f7023f78), AE_TIME
Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  696.684174] ACPI Error (psparse-0537): Method parse/execution failed [\_WAK] (Node f7023030), AE_TIME
Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  696.684370] ACPI Exception: AE_TIME, During Method _WAK (20100428/hwsleep-601)
Oct 27 14:55:36 anil-laptop kernel: [  696.719069] PM: early resume of devices complete after 1.912 msecs

However, on Suse's Smeegol, I just could not get it to show this exception.

On Ubuntu, the system wakes up whether the power button is pressed or sleep hotkey (Fn+F1) is pressed again. However, if the power button is pressed, the ACPI exception will normally show up and wifi works. But if the sleep hotkey is pressed, the exception rarely occurs and wifi does not work.

The next step would be to try the lenovo-laptop driver and hope that the wireless hotkey works and I do not need the above magic any more.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pension and retirement - Contrast between India and France

Obviously, the pension in France must be much better than what I receive from EPF. I could not find out if any organisation could and does contribute towards more than Rs. 6500 as the pensionable salary. Worse, newspaper reports indicated that pension fund was in a financial mess in-spite of such a bad scheme from my perspective.

Unfortunately, my savings from 30 years of working do not match the gains from the property my father got in Delhi area. But my father's investment in property gave me the option of opting out when I needed to do so. For the last 3 years, I was working for about half time (and earning half as much) but it was great for me.

What has surprised me is the number of people who at least indicated that they would have loved to be in my shoes. I was bored, constrained and tired by the full-time routine and, apparently, many people are. The strikes in France indicate that this is the case in other countries as well.

Perhaps, companies could look at their practices and introduce new roles. It would be interesting to watch if the companies offered people in consulting and indirect management roles a chance to work fewer days, with suitable adjustment in salary, how many would opt for it.

However, I am certain very-very few in India would ever go on strike against increasing the retirement age.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cyber Security - DRDO style

The Tribune in Chandigarh (25 Oct 2010) had a news item about Defence R & D Organisation(DRDO). It was on the front page and included DRDO's solution for cyber security.

"With cyber security being a major issue in the wake of a series of attempts to hack networks, Saraswat said DRDO was developing its own computer operating system that would be much more resistant to penetration as the source codes for the software would not be available."

I hope the correspondent got it wrong. But somehow, the statement fits my expectations from bureaucracy :(

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Illegal Overstay

I had decide to return to India from Europe by land - at least till Kabul and then fly. (It was 1978 - Kabul was still a very friendly place.)

I had checked with the Greek Tourist office in Amsterdam - no visa needed for 'countries formerly under the British rule'. I landed up on the border of Yogoslavia and Greece and was offloaded! Visa - go back to Yugoslavia and get a visa. There was an option for visa on landing but only at the airports.

An officer at the railway station was very nice. He sent a few telexes, got me a place to spend the night. He managed to get me a transit visa and I could board the train next morning.

The visa was for 2 or 3 days and I was leaving on the 5th day. A day had already been lost as I had to travel by day train instead of the night train. Anyway, I went to the immigration office to get the visa extended. Looked at the chaos - as bad as anything in India. I thought why waste more time. I am not an illegal immigrant! And nice people - based on my experience at the Yugoslav border.

I was taking the train to Istanbul. Relations between Turkey and Greece were near war-like. At the border, I was in for a shock. I was now worried that I may be locked up or miss the train. However, the train stopped for a very long time and after a couple of hours - they put lots of stamps on my passport and I got away by paying a fine.

The fine pinched!

Immegration Office with a Human Face

I was just reading an article in Indian Express - 'Incredible Indian Red Tape' about the Foreigners Regional Registration Office. Nothing surprising about our pointless fascination for papers, particularly notarised (or signed by a Gazetted Officer). But the last line "There is no immigration office with a human face" triggered a memory.

It was 1976 and I had taken a one year post-doc in Helsinki University. The visa was for 3 months at a time. When the three months were getting over, I with a great deal of fear and trepidation went to the immigration office. The lady was so pleasant that I was shocked! Getting the visa renewed was such a pleasant encounter, I just couldn't believe it. Even on the third and final renewal, the staff dealing with me was very pleasant, wondering how I was getting along in Helsinki and said, 'have a pleasant stay and see you again'!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Netbook Suspend and Resume

While searching for something I did not find, I came across Canonical voices page and an explanation of how suspend and resume work in Linux.

The sleep key  "is bounced back out to userspace via /proc/acpi/events (currently, though it's going to be moved to the input layer in future) and userspace gets to choose what happens next.

Let's concentrate on the common scenario, which is that someone hitting the sleep button wants to suspend to RAM. Via some abstraction (either acpid, gnome-power-manager or kpowersave or something), userspace makes that decision and initiates the suspend to RAM process by either calling a suspend script directly or bouncing via HAL." (

Hence, it is possible that a different window manager on the same hardware may behave differently. And, of course, the behaviour on different distributions can be different.

I also came across a presentation on how notebook's lid and special buttons work which gives an insight into how the hardware generates the general purpose events.

On Lenovo S10-3, the sleep key (Fn+F1) worked on each on the os's. However, the lid works perfectly well with Ubuntu, MeeGo and Smeegol but doesn't with Arch Linux even though laptop-mode tools, acpid are installed. On Ubuntu 10.10 using gdm, if I start kde, even (Fn+F1) does not work!

Thanks to the above information, I can start my hunt for why and, perhaps, a consistent solution for S10-3 no matter what the distribution or the window manager.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Experimenting with Lenovo S10-3 - Smeegol

I downloaded the x64 version of the iso file. It worked without a hitch and I could install the Suse's version of MeeGo on the S10-3. Unlike the 'official' MeeGo, this version has the full Suse repository available and applications like OpenOffice are already installed.

It uses gdm instead of directly using uxlaunch. The X server in this case is owned by root and not the user as in the case of MeeGo. However, this also implies that it is multiuser unlike MeeGo at present.

It is an attractive and a nice alternative to the Ubuntu Netbook and the KDE netbook workspace.

The wifi issue continues to trouble me. LED is still off and I need to suspend the os (Fn+F1) and bring it back to life before it will recognise the existence of Bluetooth and enable wifi to work. Unfortunately, so far, with Smeegol, it does not recognise Bluetooth in spite of multiple attempts at suspending and resuming the system. I need to dig deeper and try to understand what is happening or supposed to happen upon resumption.

The other irritant on Smeegol so far - if I accidentally press the power button(and I seem to do that often while moving the netbook), a message is displayed that it will power-off after 30 seconds. However, it seems more like 3 seconds!

Figuring out how these buttons actually work along with the configuration files and code relating to them is one of the many pending items on my list of items I want to understand:(

Friday, October 8, 2010

Students, Teachers, Testing and Facebook

There were two news items which attracted my attention.

The first was that a number of students in a Chandigarh school were suspended for making offensive remarks against a teacher on Facebook. It appears that one student did not like the marks he got on a test. A number of fellow students supported him.

To many, this would be an indication of the problem with internal grades. Anonymous marking implies that the students cannot target a teacher.

There is no doubt that public comments can be offensive and hurtful. In interactions between people, some intentional and unintentional hurtful remarks are inevitable. However, the advantage is that the problem is out in the open in a few days. Action is taken in a few days. And students and teachers will learn to cope with the implications of new technologies.

The other item was actually an opinion piece by an ex-Vice Chancellor of Punjabi University. His view was that teachers in government schools were not accountable and were not performing their responsibilities adequately. A major problem was the curse of paid tuition classes, which he felt needs to be addressed urgently.

Tuition classes seem to be everywhere. Even in our local shopping area, there are as many tuition classes as there are grocery stores! Tuition classes rely upon standardised tests and preparing students to do well in them. What if the tests, including the final, were internal and the final exam was not critical. What would be the value of the tuition classes?

My belief is that an internal system will lead to a far better relationship between the teachers and the students though there is bound to be confusion in the transition period. But I doubt if I will see it happen.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Keyboad Interface - CTOS like options instead of short cut keys

I loved the Convergent's CTOS (Burroughs BTOS). The last time I used it was about 20 years ago - I would have been in my early 40's. As Ishiguro's novels show, memories are a very strange phenomena!

Still, I think a user interface modelled on CTOS on Linux would be very desirable for people who have problems with mouse - which includes a very large population - the aging group. Unfortunately, this is also the group which can't scratch its own itch :(

The features I think would be very useful:

1. Extensive use of function keys. Short cut keys do not need to be fixed. There is no need for each operation to be uniquely mapped to a key combination. Operations available could be mapped to the function keys based on the state of a document/application. This is quite similar to the options which are often available on right click of a mouse. A panel could dynamically display the function keys with labels of operations which were available.

2. Mark and Bound. The Mark key was used to set up a marker. Cursor could be moved around. When the desired destination was reached, Bound key was pressed and the content between Mark and Bound was selected. This becomes equivalent to a 'pick'. An operation like move, copy and delete can be done on that. Move and copy would expect that the cursor to be in the target position. This becomes equivalent to a 'drop'. Since a standard keyboard will not have a 'Mark' and 'Bound' key, function keys could be assigned to that role as described above.

I wish I could remember the number of times my father called in Goa regarding missing documents. He would press ctrl-A instead of shift-A and continue typing. By the time he would phone me, he had made closed and reopened the document and I could not help him over the phone.

He would have spent hours painstakingly typing a document and it would disappear. I never did figure out how to get rid of ctrl-A on Windows98.

Mouse - Click to Move

I had switched my parents to Fedora 4 years ago when I moved to Delhi area from Goa. One application from Windows98 remained - Freecell. My mother loved to play it and she just could not use drag and drop functionality. She has Parkinson's disease.

Then, after an update, I noticed 'Click to Move' option in AisleRiot. Had I missed it earlier or was it a new feature - I don't know. But after that, even Windows' freecell lost its place on the computer.

The reason I recalled this incident was that I was finding it extremely hard to use drag and drop on Kpat on the Lenovo netbook using the touch pad. Some operations with mouse can be very-very difficult as we age. KDE4.5 has more keyboard short cuts so I found that to play Kpat, I could use them. Not the best of solutions but a workable solution. An option for 'pick and drop' as an alternate to 'drag and drop' would have been very useful.

Sadly, keyboard shortcuts are just that. They are not very useful for older people who may have problem with mouse as well as remembering which key does what in which application.