Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mozilla Prism, Chrome and Site-specific browsing

The prism plugin of firefox seems so easy to use. But I ran into problems. Unfortunately, I encountered two distinct issues.

  • Prism does not seem to be included in Firefox for 64bit Fedora.
  • It did not work with 32 bit firefox included with Arch Linux.

I did get it to work easily with the 32bit firefox downloaded from Mozilla's site. But Prism plugin is not compatible with FF4 beta as yet.

After these experiences, the site-specific browsing option in Chrome seems to be better and cleaner. So, I will experiment with Facebook as a desktop application using Chrome for my mother and see how she manages.

Learning to cope with Facebook

I decided to become a little more active on facebook. I added some films, books and authors I like to my profile. I did not realise that it would echo the likes to 'friends'. My wife, who is my friend at least on facebook, pointed out the two pages of "likes xyz's" from me cluttering her wall.

In the process, I seemed to have become a 'follower' of at least one author as well, which wasn't my intention. I will have to figure out how it works.

My motivation for becoming active on facebook was actually to open an account for my mother so that the pictures posted by some relations are visible to her. I will have to see if she finds the site usable.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blog as a therapy

Talking it out helps to get latent violence out of ones system. So, I have decided to take my frustrations out by "Talking to myself". The URL isn't what I would have liked but other people seem to have had similar ideas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What do I want for Christmas

Although software systems can go wrong in spectacular ways, I would love to have a mutual fund which does not say "Fund Managed by ..." but instead says "Algorithm by ....".

I would trust a computer program more. I cannot be sure if a fund manager is exploiting the plans of the fund to ensure better returns for himself or his rich clients.

A computer program is able to digest a lot more facts and will be less likely to be influenced by rumours and 'market sentiments' (24x7 business channel speak).

And I think it will be beneficial to the society as it may redirect the focus of the work talented people do.

I am not sure if the salaries are 'market' driven by supply and demand or by the benefit to the society. I think a lot of it has to do with the ability to do damage (which is why we want the police and tax officials to be well paid) or nearness to money (ability to misuse it or divert it) (which is probably why our engineering students want to do an MBA in Finance.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fed up with the noise about scams

Can't watch Indian tv news anymore without being bombarded by noise. Everyone talks and I doubt if anyone listens.

In spite of so many discussions, I can't seem to find even a tiny bit of information about:

1. Do elections cost as much as we think they do? ( Most likely yes or even more. )

2. Is the money collected by party membership fees enough to run the party and the elections? ( I seriously doubt it.)

3. Do the donations reported by the parties add up to known or estimated expenses? ( Doubtful.)

4. Seems obvious that every political party needs someone who will fill the money gap. What difference does it make who the person is. This role has to be filled if a political party has to function.

If I am a non-vegetarian, I have to have at least one butcher. A goat or a chicken is not going to come and make itself available on my plate!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Public Service or Stubborn Stupidity?

I tried to open an online trading account today as I now need to sell some shares occasionally. I want to avoid the paperwork - and, even more, the parking hassles associated with the paperwork. I wound up advising the representatives of the trading company and my bank where I have the demat accounts about the need for them to support Firefox or Chrome on Linux.

The transactions are only assured on Windows XP with IE6! Some people had problems even with IE7 and IE8. Needless to say, I did not take the account. Had it been free, I would have tried it and given them unwanted feedback :(

Wikileaks - First War of Independence by the Techies?

I have been puzzled by why I have been excited by Wikileaks. The revelations are hardly surprising. When I met my wife-to-be, I realised that for many people Diplomacy is a synonym for Lying - Wikileaks just re-confirms it :)

The cyber-attack on the financial institutions excited me even more. This left me bewildered. Most likely, the excitement has been caused by latent hostility (or jealousy?) towards those with 'greater power and control' over my life.

But one factor has bothered me a lot. I came across a number of students studying computer science and not interested or bothered about programming! Their goal was to get an engineering degree(lying would be a perfectly acceptably social virtue), go for an MBA and get a job with a ridiculous salary - ridiculous at least in comparison to what techies get.

I didn't really care about the financial geniuses or the money they made. Their income bothered me only after even the safe schemes lost money. I was sure that a reasonably smart computer program would have done a far better job and cost much less.

If I invested in the stock market, it was with the clear understanding that it was more like being a part of a pyramid scheme which had only an incidental connection with the fundamentals of companies or growth.

So, my anxiety is that if whole generations of people are desiring to make money from pyramid schemes, are Chinese the only ones who will be producing products? Can the few remaining techies remain unconcerned about money and their savings?

Wikileaks has given a ray of hope. It is time that the power equations in the world change!

Update: Feel really disgusted on reading this.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Arch Linux update and KDE graphics problem with Lenovo S10-3

My last update of Arch Linux affected quite a few packages including updating the kernel to 2.6.36. There was one more issue in addition to the resumption from sleep problem. The additional issue related to graphics effects of KDE.

The edge effect of showing all the windows worked. However, I could not select any of the windows and there was no way to return to a usable window. The display seemed to hang.

I could switch to a tty (ctrl+alt+Fn) and 'pkill ksmserver' to get a new login and start a new desktop session. My workaround was to disable desktop effects until I found the cause.

I rolled back a number of packages which seemed likely, e.g. kernel, mesa, xf86-video-intel. Finally, I located that the culprits were intel-dri and libgl. I had to downgrade both from 7.9-1 to 7.8.2-3.

I also needed to downgrade xf86-video-intel from 2.13.0-4 to 2.12.0-3. The display did not freeze but was very erratic and unstable.

Lenovo S10-3 with 2.6.36 - Resuming after Sleep

After installing the 2.6.36 kernel from Arch Linux, I found that the system would not resume after sleep. I spent the last couple of days trying to understand the problem. I installed 2.6.36 kernels from Fedora's Rawhide and from Ubuntu's kernel-ppa.

Fedora kernel had the same problem resuming. However, it worked on Ubuntu. On Ubuntu, I had been using 'intel_idle.max_cstate=0' as a kernel boot option. This was a work around for Ubuntu 10.10's boot problem on S10-3.

Removing the intel_idle option from Ubuntu's 2.6.36 kernel resulted in the S10-3 booting perfectly well. However, it showed the same inability to resume from the suspended state.

Adding that option to Arch Linux kernel resolved the resuming from sleep problem on this platform as well. Needless to say, the same option worked on Fedora kernel as well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rolling Distributions

It appears that Suse will have an option of a rolling distribution even if Ubuntu is not yet introducing a rolling distributions. For several years I have felt that this is inevitable (I still agree with the ideas in that article but wish I could have expressed them better).

A feature I miss in Arch Linux is the option to easily and quickly rollback the last set of updates in case some application or system malfunctions.

System Insists on Rebooting, Ignores Shutdown request!

My mother was patiently waiting for me to start her computer. Actually, the monitor was off but the computer was on. My sister had a problem shutting down the system last night as it insisted on rebooting! So, she had just left it on and powered off the monitor.

Needless to say, my sister was offended when I suggested that she may have clicked in the wrong location. Well, I too failed to get the system to shutdown. And jumped to the conclusion that upgrading to Arch Linux kernel 2.6.36 must be the culprit. It was a coincidence.

The system refuses to shutdown even on the alternate Fedora 12 still installed on the same system. The workaround is to choose the Hibernate option.

I suppose it's time that I get my mother a new computer!

Update: The problem is resolved but the cause was strange. There was a thumb drive attached to the system. I removed the thumb drive and the system shut down gracefully.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bank bureaucracy

I would strongly advise people to make sure that their bank accounts have a nominee. It is even more desirable that the accounts you may inherit also have a nominee.

I have just completed the task of getting the balance in may father's pension account transferred to my mother's account. The paperwork was ridiculous, especially considering the sum of money involved.

I had been procrastinating knowing that I would face some problem. I had to loose my temper which makes me very depressed.

It saddens me that victim of my frustration was a person who seemed very scared of his boss. He wanted to avoid any issue, possibly for himself, by asking me to fill in financial details which seemed totally inappropriate, considering that we had provided enough security from each of 5 people - 3 family members and 2 additional people - to cover much more than the balance in my father's account.

He sent us to his boss, who promised that the money would be transferred by the end of the day.

I feel depressed because in all likelihood the man on the desk may have been a senior manager but his authority must have been minimal. And I probably spoiled his day.

It also depresses me that India does not eat its own dog food - as far as Information Technology is concerned.

I wish someone would teach me how to do tasks which need to be done but are unpleasant!

Solving Problems with Indian Education

A wonderful simple solution:
The four-member inquiry committee probing the Madhuri Sale suicide case at IIT-Kanpur has suggested replacing ceiling fans with pedestal fans in order to help prevent suicides in hostels.
I wonder if the committee has spent a summer in Kanpur or may be their homes and offices are airconditioned.

On the other hand, nice to read that Azim Premji  is transferring a part of his shares of Wipro to a foundation for improving education in India.