Saturday 21 November 2009

Chrome OS: A Glorified Chrome Web browser!

The Developer Build of Chrome OS ( is out. I downloaded it from the gdgt website and installed within my Ubuntu Operating System. The downside is you need to register to download the OS.  Another downside is one can only use it as a virtual OS, using a virtualization software like VirtualBox or VMware. The first one is free while the second one isn't.

Coming to the installation itself, TechCrunch website one of the first to write about the operating system installation, gives a detailed walkthrough on how to install Chrome OS using VirtualBox. Having used VirtualBox extensively to run Windows Operating Systems on Linux (Ubuntu) in the past, I felt the installation process was a bit easier.

Initially, I downloaded the VirtualBox version (zipped vdi file) and wasn't successful in running it. Taking a cue from other users experience (on the internet), I downloaded the VMware version (zipped vmdk file) and mounted it in VirtualBox.

I also didn't get the network to work on my desktop PC, which prevented me from logging on. So I logged in using the following -  Login: chronos and Password : blank (not a word).

To get internet connection, I did as per the following screenshot in the VirtualBox Settings for Chrome OS.

First impressions are, it looks like a Glorified Chrome Web Browser. The UI  (User Interface) we are so used to seeing is virtually not existent. The screenshot below will tell you exactly what I mean. This is the only screen you get. You may use the other tabs for browsing.

Looking ahead into the future, going by Google's track record, it might take a year or even more before the Public Beta version is released. Remember! it took Google Mail approximately three years to transition from Public Beta to an End User Version and it is more than a year since the Windows version of Chrome Web Browser is released and there is no sign of Mac or Linux version yet (though developer versions for Mac and Linux exist in the background).

Final thoughts are, Chrome OS will remain as it is now, by which I mean the UI (user interface) will be minimalist. It will be totally web-based and Google might rely on the advances in Cloud Computing to propel the OS to the forefront (OS of choice). It is likely that traditional software based computers we see and use today might eventually become redundant.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Network Manager or wicd?

Of late I have had problems with my wireless network connection on Ubuntu (mainly on my desktop installation). This problem first cropped up probably after upgrading to Jaunty from Intrepid. In those days I had Philips SNU-5600 adapter,  which needed to be unplugged and replugged after start-up for the Network Manager to detect it. I was expecting that things would improve in Karmic, but the problem remained unresolved. Furthermore, my trusted adapter due to frequent unplugging/replugging finally broke down.

I bought a Netgear WN111, with the Wireless N technology, which put me back by about 50 quid. When I bought WN111, I wasn't sure whether Ubuntu  Karmic had the necessary  drivers to detect it. I was pleasantly surprised when Network Manager detected it.  However, a new problem started to crop up. Though the wireless network connectivity gets established after start-up, the connection drops out after a few minutes. This went on for a week or so. I tried installing wicd with little success. It seemed like wicd wasn't detecting WN111 at all.  I wondered  whether some settings in the Network Manager were causing it to drop connection . I also looked for help around on the internet but to no avail.

Last night, I uninstalled Network Manager and used my live CD to download the wicd debian package from Ubuntu Package Download area. Incidentally, the connection dropped out on Live CD as well.

I logged back into my Ubuntu Karmic installation on the desktop and installed wicd. Bingo! it worked.

Now comes the question, Network Manager or wicd? My vote would go to wicd. The interface of wicd is much better than the default Network Manager. It has the ability to connect to both wired (No PPPoE/DSL support) and wireless networks. If I need to connect using an ADSL modem for whatever reason, tough luck!

Thursday 12 November 2009

Triple Boot MacBook (Mac OSX 10.6, Windows 7 & and Ubuntu 9.10)

When I bought my MacBook last year, my intention was to use it to Triple boot either Mac OSX, Windows or Linux. As you might know, this is only possible on a Mac system, because, no other hardware can run Mac OSX except a Mac.

This is how I managed to get the three operating systems onto one machine.The three operating systems I wanted were; Mac OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard), Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala).

The things you need are;

(1) Mac OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard) Installation DVD

(2) Windows 7 Installation DVD

(3) Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)  iso image burnt onto a CD-ROM. I will tell you later on how to download and burn the iso image onto a CD-ROM.

First things first. You need Bootcamp to install Windows. The guide on Apple's website gives an exhaustive account on how to use Bootcamp to install Windows Vista. You could use the same guide to install Windows 7. The website Simple Help also gives a decent walkthrough on how to install Windows 7 using Bootcamp. So I will skip this part. A thing to note is the installation will go through a couple of restarts. Do not press any key during restarts. Once the installation is completed, eject the Windows 7 installation DVD. On some occasions, you may not be able to eject the Windows 7 installation DVD. Do not panic, just restart and press Alt key (Option key) and enter into Mac OSX to eject the DVD. Alternatively, press the eject key during start-up to eject the DVD.

Now comes the part of installing the necessary drivers for Windows 7. The Mac OSX installation DVD contains the drivers for Windows Vista, which work perfectly well for Windows 7. Installing the drivers will enable you to get the following Mac components working;
  • Graphics
  • Networking
  • Audio
  • AirPort wireless connectivity
  • Bluetooth
  • Built-in iSight camera
  • Brightness control for built-in displays
You now have a Mac with a Dual boot option.

Coming to the next question, how to install Ubuntu 9.10. Bootcamp will only permit you to install only one operating system (mainly Windows). It took me a while to figure this one out. There are no easy posts on the internet on how to do it. This is how...

For this you need to login to Mac OSX and follow these Steps.

Step 1:  Go to Disk Utility under Utilities. You will get a screen like this...

You might have noticed that the size of my Windows 7 partition is only 40 GB. I don't use Windows 7 that often on my MacBook, hence I chose to limit it to 40 GB.

Step 2:  Press on the Mac volume and Go to the Partition tab and adjust its size. I chose to reduce it by approximately 40 GB.

Step 3:  Press Apply and you will find the new Partition named Mac 2

Step 4:  Rename the partition as Ubuntu and set the format type to FAT32 and press Apply.

You will now have a new partition Ubuntu formatted to FAT32 file system.

Step 5:  Whilst still on Mac OSX, it is now time to download rEFIt as Mac OSX only detects Windows during startup. rEFIt is a boot menu and maintenance toolkit for EFI based systems like  Intel Macs. It has a graphical boot menu, which detects all operating systems (including  Linux and Windows) loaded on an internal hard disk. Once downloaded leave it on the system. We will come back to it later.

Step 6:  Now is the time to download Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) iso image file (32 bit). After downloading it burn it onto a CD-R. This is how to do it.
  1. Open Disk Utility. It's in the Utilities folder (/Applications/Utilities).
  2. Go to File menu and click Open Disk Image and then choose the downloaded iso image file.
  3. Insert a blank CD-R and click Burn. Follow the prompts thereafter. 
  4. Once the burning is complete, leave the CD as it is.
  5. Restart Mac.
Step 7:  When the Mac starts to power up click the Option Key (Alt Key) and hold it. Mac OSX and Windows discs will be displayed via the Mac Bootloader. Continue holding the Alt key until the CD-R is displayed. Incidentally the CD-R will be titled Windows. It is normal that all the non-Mac discs are named Windows in Mac OSX. Once the CD-R is displayed click on it. The Ubuntu CD-R will start to load.

Step 8:  The first screen will display five options. Choose the Install Ubuntu option.

Step 9:  Thereafter you will be led through a series of screens with some straight forward options, first is Language, second is Where are You? (to set your Time Zone) and the third is Keyboard Layout. Under Keyboard Layout choose the Keyboard that has got Macintosh (for example: United Kingdom - Macintosh).

Step 10:  Now comes the most important step in the installation process, which is to Prepare Disk Space. Choose the Manual Option. You will be presented with four partitions.

Ignore the following partitions; (1) First fat32 partition (likely to be /dev/sda1) that has got Windows MBR (2) hfs+ partition (likely to be /dev/sda2) that has got Mac OSX and (3) ntfs partition (likely to be /dev/sda4) that has got Windows 7. Choose the second fat32 partition (likely to be /dev/sda3) which matches the size created using the Mac's Disk Utility in Step 4.

Step 11:  Press Add. Under the screen New Partition you will be given the following choices ;
(1) Type for the new partition select Primary 
(2) New Partition Size. Give a partition size that will leave about 1 GB space for the Swap partition.
(3) Location for the new partition. Select Beginning.
(4) Use as to set the file system. Choose Ext4 journaling file system.
(5) Mount point set to /.

Step 12:  Select the next partition /dev/sda5 to set the Swap partition. Press Add. Under the screen New Partition you will be given the following choices ; 
(1) Type for the new partition select Primary 
(2) New Partition Size. Give a partition size of 1 GB space for the Swap partition.
(3) Location for the new partition. Select Beginning.
(4) Use as to set the file system. Choose Swap.

Press Forward to apply the partitioning changes.

Step 13:  Next screen will be Who are you? to set up your login details. Enter the details and Press Forward.

Step 14:  You will get the screen Ready to Install.  In this screen press the Advanced tab and select Install Boot Loader to /dev/sda4 (likely location of your Ubuntu installation). Do not select (hd0).  This will overwrite the Windows 7 MBR. If so refer to my earlier post on how to repair Windows 7 MBR.

Come out of the Advanced screen and press Install.

If the steps are followed as suggested you will have Ubuntu 9.10 installed on your Mac.

Step 15:  Now is the time to get back into Mac OSX. Go to the location where rEFIt was downloaded and install the software onto Mac OSX installation volume. Once the installation is complete, rEFIt will load on startup. The second icon is your Ubuntu 9.10 installation.

Here is the screenshot of Ubuntu on Mac. Isn't it amazing?

This is how the Mac Disk Utility will look after Ubuntu installation.

One final point of note. Ubuntu's Network Manager might not detect the wireless card on MacBook. To get wireless internet access, I used an USB wireless adapter (Philips SNU5600), which the Network Manager detected. To resolve the problem I installed Wicd via Synaptic, which detects the MacBook wireless card. Though Wicd detected MacBook's wireless card, it didn't detect Netgear WN111 connected to my Desktop computer. I will write about Wicd's problems in another post.

POST UPDATE ON 01/01/2010:

I also advise you to visit the following webpage (Thanks to Sean):

to get help on the latest Linux drivers required for Ubuntu to work effectively on a  MacBook.

Mac OSX Updates

Yesterday there were a sleuth of updates/patches issued from Apple and Microsoft. The Mac OSX patch covered  58 security vulnerabilities. A screenshot of what the Mac OSX update actually displayed on screen.

There is more to it than what Apple wants us to see and believe. The other day I read an article on the internet saying that the Mac OSX Snow Leopard (costing £25) was a great value for money  upgrade compared to Windows 7 (costing upward of £78). I felt that was hilarious. When I upgraded to Snow Leopard, I hardly noticed any difference. I had to double check "About this Mac" to  confirm that Snow Leopard was indeed installed. The changes were more beneath the surface. I certainly felt that it was a wasted upgrade. Comparing that to Windows 7, it is a major upgrade for the Windows XP users and maybe not so much for the Vista users. Before upgrading to Windows 7, my PC was very sluggish. It used to take ages to boot up and applications in general were very slow to loadup. Things have certainly changed with Windows 7. All my computers seem very slick and fast, including my aging Dell Inspiron 8200 notebook.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Repair MBR for Windows 7 installed on MacBook

A couple of days back, I installed Ubuntu Karmic (Ubuntu 9.10) on my MacBook to give me a triple OS boot option (which I will write about in another post). My MacBook also had Windows 7 Home Premium Edition installed previously. During the installation, I selected Ubuntu to write the Grub onto a separately created partition (formatted to FAT32) under the Advanced Installation option. Following the installation, I found that the Windows 7 MBR (Master Boot Record) was overwritten by GRUB (Grand Unified Boot Loader). As a result I got a message "Missing Operating System" when I started Windows 7. This is how to get it back.

(Caution: This tutorial is only for restoring MBR on Windows 7. Do not use this tutorial if you are unsure for whatever reason).

Step 1: Insert the original Windows 7 DVD. (For Mac users, press the Alt (or Option) Key and hold until you see the DVD symbol and choose it).

Step 2: Choose the suitable Language, Time and Keyboard.

Step 3: Press Next and choose the option Repair your Computer. Do not press Install Now.

Step 4: Select the Windows 7 Installation and press Next.

Step 5: You will be presented with five options; (1) Startup Repair, (2) System Restore, (3) Windows Complete PC Restore, (4) Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool and (5) Command Prompt. Select the fifth option.

Step 6: You will end up at something like this X:\>Sources. Get set to enter some DOS commands.

Step 7: Type the command "cd.." (without quotes). This will take you to the root directory X:\>.

Step 8: Type the command "cd boot" (without quotes). This will take you to the boot directory, which should look like this X:\>boot.

Step 9: Type the final command "bootsect /nt60 C:" (once again without quotes). This would have restored your MBR to its previous state.

Step 10: Eject the DVD and press Ctrl-Alt-Del for PC users. For Mac users do a Hard Reset (by pressing power button and holding it until it shuts down).

Your MBR would have been restored. I did this on a MacBook and it worked.

Friday 30 October 2009

Solution for GRUB 2 to detect Windows 7 in Ubuntu Karmic Koala

Last night, I installed Ubuntu's latest offering Ubuntu 9.10 also known as Karmic Koala on a partitioned hard drive. Following the installation, GRUB2 did not detect Windows 7, which was on an other partition. I figured out the way to get it.

Step 1: Login to Recovery Mode of the Ubuntu 9.10 Kernel.

Step 2: Once the Recovery mode screen is displayed, look for the option Update GRUB. Click on it.

Step 3: GRUB will detect all the installations including Windows 7 on another partitions.

Step 4: Restart and you will find Windows 7 in the GRUB Boot Loader.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Microsoft Security Essentials

I installed Microsoft Security Essentials as a second AntiVirus (AV) software on all my computers running Windows. It is a relief to see a free AV software from Microsoft, atlast. For the past six years, I have been using Trend Micro on my windows run PCs. It costs me approximately £60 for a two years subscription, for an installation on three computers. This latest offering from Microsoft hopefully will save me from paying for an AV software in the future. My first impressions are this is quite a good software from Microsoft. Its operation is fairly non-intrusive, which is quite appealing. The size of the download file is only 4.28 MB and the installation occupies only 10.3 MB. If Microsoft offers this software for free in the coming years, it will shake up the AV software market completely and may make the bigwigs (Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky, ESET NOD32) redundant. Here is a screenshot of the software.....

Thursday 22 October 2009

Windows 7 Home Premium Edition

Last night, I installed Windows 7 Home Premium edition on my two year old desktop PC, which I pre-ordered from Amazon UK in September for £68 (including VAT and Postage). The total installation process took about 20 minutes, which is quite good considering that I had spent an hour or so on Windows XP installations in the past. So officially, I installed Windows 7 a day before it was released in the shops.

This is how I set out installing Windows 7 on my desktop PC.

The hard disk on my PC has two partitions. On the first partition I had Windows 7 RC and on the second I had Windows XP. As a good measure, I backed up my Windows XP partition first. Thereafter, I backed up the Users folder in Windows 7 RC. I didn't install any software that I had bought for Windows XP on Windows RC, expecting that I might need to reinstall when the official edition of Windows 7 gets released. In the end this proved to be the right move, because, Windows 7 cannot be upgraded from Windows 7 RC or even from Windows XP directly. Only a clean installation is possible in either case.

Coming to the installation itself, firstly, I booted from the Windows 7 DVD-ROM and tried to install straight-off the DVD-ROM onto the Windows 7 RC partition, but the software didn't let me do it. I had Windows XP on the second partition, so I logged onto Windows XP and clean installed onto the first partition, leaving the Windows XP installation intact. A screenshot of the new operating system....

POST UPDATED ON 24/10/2009:

A couple of days later, I received three further installations of Windows 7 Home Premium Edition from Amazon UK, which I pre-ordered in July for about £45 each (including VAT and postage). Though I ordered an Upgrade Edition, Amazon were gracious enough to send the Full Edition. This is a great value for money offer, because I was able to upgrade four Windows XP machines to Windows 7 for £200 (half the price of a decent Notebook and less than the price of a Netbook).

Sunday 11 October 2009

GNOME Do on Ubuntu

GNOME Do is a launcher tool, which allows you to perform simple tasks like starting an application or search for items on your computer from a single point. Furthermore, it has a dock bar which allows you to drag and drop commonly used applications onto it for easy access instead of cluttering your desktop. Though the dock bar is not as good looking and versatile as the one in Apple Mac OS X or easy to use as the task bar in Windows 7, it is still quite good and useful application from a functional standpoint. Have a look at the screenshot of the dock bar....

For example; if you want to Open Firefox, click on GNOME Do icon on the extreme left of the Dock Bar and type Firefox. It will Open Firefox. Similarly, if you want to access say your music files located in a folder titled "Music", instead of going through the menu route, just type Music. It will display the Music folder.

Though the Dock bar is not available as default, it can be displayed by going into Appearance and selecting the theme Docky. The following screenshot explains better....

In the past I used Awn (Avant Window Navigator) and Cairo docks. Though the appearance of Awn dock is good, functionally it seems a bit unstable. Cairo dock on the other hand has two different versions; (1) Cairo-Dock (No OpenGL), which is relatively stable, (2) GLX-Dock (Cairo-Dock with OpenGL), which is very unstable, though graphically it seems to be quite attractive. Cairo-Dock is probably the best of the three for customisation.

GNOME Do however is the most stable of the three docks. The stability seems to stem from the fact that GNOME Do is just a simple 2D dock bar. Thus, for this reason I am sticking to GNOME Do for the moment, though I may give an occassional shot at the other two.

POST UPDATED ON 27/10/2009:
After writing this post, I went back to check the stability of Awn. It seems like Awn has become lot more stabler. Have a look at the screenshot of the Awn dock bar.

It appears like the icons are placed on top of an iPhone. This can be done by setting the Bar Appearance as per the following screen.

I am beginning to like this Awn dock bar. So bye-bye GNOME Do and welcome to Awn.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Web Apps

Web applications (or web apps for short) have been around for a decade now. These apps are accessed using the web browser. One of the most widely known web app is Google Docs, which has a web-based spreadsheet, word processor, presentation and form application offered by Google. This app is particularly useful for those who don't have the Microsoft Office Suite of applications. There are plenty of other apps as well, however, they haven't become as popular as one had hoped them to be.

Coming to the question, why this post?

Whilst in office, I was looking to extract a file with a rar (Roshal Archive) extension. Usually in a standard office environment, it is not possible to extract files except those with a zip extension. To get around the problem I used a webapp named WobZIP, which is quite simple to use. You upload the file you want to extract and once it is uploaded it is extracted on the fly on the server and is available for download. You inturn download the file and later delete the file from the server.

A few web apps that come to mind that take the hassle out of downloading and installing locally on one's PC or Mac are PDF converter, Audio rip of Youtube videos, Broadband speed test, Online Virus Check, Photoshop .....

Wednesday 2 September 2009

How to use iPhone as a storage medium with easy access to files?

iPhone 3GS is a great gadget and I have only just started to explore its features fully. I realised pretty early on that there is no direct way to use iPhone as a storage medium with easy access to files. Files Lite is a great free app which allows you to use your iPhone as a storage medium. It works like this on a wireless network with a PC loaded with Windows 7.

1. Download the app Files Lite from the App Store and start it. It will give a server address. Note it down.

2. Go to your PC or Mac and set up a network drive. In case of a PC with Windows 7 RC go to Libraries and right click on Network and go to Map Network Drive.

3. Choose a drive (for example X:) and enter folder name as the server address given by Files Lite, which might look like this http://192.168.0.x:8080.

4. You will see the folder Public under DavWWWRoot (\\192.168.0.X:8080) X: on your PC when you go into Libraries. Transfer the files you would like to store on your iPhone to the folder Public. You may create sub-folders as well.

Files Lite has a limitation of 200 MB storage capacity. For unlimited storage capacity (only limited by the iPhone storage capaciy) one may get a paid app named Files for £2.99.

I usually like to transfer e-books in pdf format onto my iPhone for leisurely reading.

How to remove "Untitled" name for Windows drive in Mac OSX?

Following the installation of Windows 7 RC on the MacBook using Boot Camp, I ended up with the Windows drive on Mac OSX named as "Untitled". If the Windows drive is formatted to NTFS, there is no way to rename the drive in Mac OSX. The only alternative is to boot into Windows and physically name the drive. It is done as follows:

1. Open My Computer in Windows XP or Computer in Windows 7 and right click on the Windows drive C:

2. Go to Properties and enter the volume name under the General tab. In my case I entered Windows 7.

3. Reboot into Mac OSX and there you see the Windows drive as named.

Friday 14 August 2009

iPhone 3GS: Battery Woes

Apple’s iPhone 3GS was released in the UK on 26th June this year. After putting away buying Apple’s iPhone 3G for the past year or so, I eventually bought the iPhone 3GS (on Pay as you Go with O2) a day after its release. In the past six years, I used three Sony Ericsson branded mobile phones; T610, V800 and K800i. All the three phones were good and solid. I had absolutely no problem whatsoever with any of them. My decision to buy iPhone 3GS was based on the positive reviews I read about the earlier model of Apple’s iPhone.

I was very impressed with the iPhone 3GS in the first two weeks of its use. The interface was great, the apps (free ones) were gorgeous and the wi-fi browsing was painless. My favourite apps were TVU player, Google Earth, Reuters News Pro, Skype and Shazaam. The battery life initially seemed okay, though I remember not using it extensively in the first two weeks. The first problem arose on the day I flew down to London Heathrow enroute to Hyderabad. The battery seemed to drain down faster than it did in the first few weeks of its use. On arrival at Heathrow T5, the battery was down to 80%. A couple of calls via Skype brought it right down to 60%. I had to switch off the phone, to preserve power for the rest of my journey. On arriving at Hyderabad nine hours later, switching it back on showed the power level at 10%. I switched it off until I reached home 6 hours later, where I eventually powered it from the mains. The battery seemed to last half a day before draining down to critical levels. I looked up on the Internet for a solution to maximise battery life and found one on the Apple website. I turned off the following (i) location services, (ii) push notifications, (iii) push mail and (iv) 3G. Things seemed to improve for a while, but remember, in the first few weeks I had all the above switched on and had absolutely no problem whatsoever.

I followed a pattern of charging the iPhone every day for a couple of weeks. It all seemed to go well, until I missed charging the iPhone for a couple of days early this month. The battery died down completely and I couldn’t bring the iPhone to switch back on. I took it down to the O2 store in Aberdeen and they sent it back to Apple to have a look.

Now comes the question, why is Apple’s iPhone battery not accessible like all the other mobile phones? It seems absolutely absurd that one has to send the mobile phone back to the manufacturer for them to have a look at a drained out battery. Unlike, other mobile phones, iPhone battery continues to drain down even in standby mode; meaning lot more disgruntled costumers.

Right now, I am looking at HTC Diamond 2 and Blackberry Curve as potential alternatives to iPhone 3GS, if Apple doesn't come back with a solution to my problem.

My iPhone 3GS was replaced by Apple with a brand new one. The whole process of replacement took 12 days, during which time I called O2 a couple of times to get an update on the status and to make sure that things were moving in the right direction. The battery in the new iPhone 3GS seems fine, which is approx. 20% drain rate per 12 hours with moderate access to e-mails, internet and iPod. This is on similar lines as my earlier iPhone before things went horribly wrong. I will keep posting updates on the battery, in case something crops up in the future.

Thursday 14 May 2009

Resolving Sound in RealPlayer 11 under Ubuntu Jaunty

Following an upgrade from Ubuntu Intrepid to Jaunty, I lost sound in RealPlayer. This is how to get it back.

Firstly, open RealPlayer 11 and go to Tools>Preferences>Hardware. Set the Audio Driver to OSS and untick all the boxes.

Execute the following code in Terminal.

sudo gedit /opt/real/RealPlayer/realplay

and thereafter replace the following text in Line 52,

$HELIX_LIBS/realplay.bin "$@"


padsp -n RealPlayer -m RealPlayerStream $HELIX_LIBS/realplay.bin "$@"

Restart the system. You should now have sound in RealPlayer 11 under Ubuntu Jaunty.

Friday 20 March 2009

Google Maps - Street View

Yesterday, whilst looking for some directions on Google Maps, I came across this amazing feature called Street View, which gives a street level view of things from a driver's perspective.

To use Street View, you need to drag the icon of a man just above the zoom slider onto a street of your interest. It covers most cities in the UK and probably the world. The amount of detail available is just mind blowing. This feature strikes me as just a step away from real life virtual driving, where one could drive around major cities from the comfort of their seats. Hats off to Google....

Monday 2 March 2009

“Earth – The Power of the Planet” by Dr. Iain Stewart

I finished watching the DVD “Earth – The Power of the Planet” presented by Dr. Iain Stewart this weekend. It took me a couple of weeks to watch the complete Two volume DVD with approximately 5 hours running time.

This DVD was an attempt by Dr. Iain Stewart and his team to explain the various forces (Volcanoes, Oceans and Ice, Atmosphere and Impacts from outer space) that shaped our planet so far and how the actions of the human beings over the past few thousand years are leaving an indelible imprint on the planet’s delicate ecology. It is difficult to pick what is best in this DVD, because every section is amazing and breathtaking. However, I most liked the section that is close to my heart termed “Rare Earth”, which is about an extraordinary sequence of events that led to the shaping of the planet that we live on today.

The conclusion by Dr. Iain Stewart and his team is our planet, because of its resilience, will eventually survive whatever the mankind may throw at it – but we humans may not be that fortunate.

The contents of the DVD and the presentation by Dr. Iain Stewart were truly exceptional. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this very informative DVD. To illustrate a point on how good the DVD is - by the end of the first DVD I was so impressed with what I saw that I felt like chucking my career in Oil & Gas and go and work with Dr. Iain Stewart on whatever project he is likely to work in the future. I would rate this work by Dr. Iain Stewart and his team as “Top notch” with an outcome that is “Truly brilliant”.

My advice is BUY this DVD set, if you are interested to know how our Planet was shaped over the past 4.6 billion years to its present state and how we humans are affecting its delicate ecology. If you are unable to BUY the DVD at least try and borrow it from wherever possible.

Sunday 1 February 2009

Windows 7 Ultimate Beta: From a Windows XP user's perspective

Windows 7 Beta (Build 7000) was officially available for download to the public on 9th January. There was a mad rush to download the Beta version at around noon CST (7pm UK time), as it was reported in the press that only the first 2.5 million could download the Beta version. To be frank, I was one amongst the millions who had frantically tried to download Windows 7 Beta that day. I must have tried for about a couple of hours before giving up.

Later that evening, I read that Microsoft servers were overwhelmed by the activity on their servers that the Beta version wasn't made available for download. An announcement was later made, which said - to give the user a pleasant download experience - the download would be available on more servers in the coming days. On Sunday, I read that the Windows 7 Beta was available for download and the 2.5 million download limit was removed.

I personally think it was the smartest move made by Steve Ballmer. With the lot of bad press received about Vista, it was time Microsoft needed to get as many people as possible on their side. There was every chance that the move could back-fire on Microsoft. However, the top brass at Microsoft were confident that this time they have got it right.

I eventually downloaded Windows 7 Beta on the 9th of January. It took me a day to download it. The reason why I wanted to test Windows 7 was - I like many others had avoided switching over to Vista from XP. In the early days I was swayed by what I read about Vista and the reasons to avoid it. Furthermore, most hardware vendors weren't really geared up with the drivers to run their hardware on the new operating system. I waited for a year to see whether the situation would change, but by then, the die has been casted against Vista, with the announcement that Microsoft were in the process of developing a newer operating system, that would be leaner and faster.

In this post, I wish to share my experience about Windows 7 Beta. I loaded Windows 7 Beta on a total of four computers at home.

Windows 7 Ultimate Beta on a 6 year old laptop:
My first installation of Windows 7 Ultimate Beta was onto a Dell Inspiron 8200 six year old laptop, which has a 1.8 GHz processor, 1 GB of memory and 32 MB onboard graphics card. This laptop originally came pre-loaded with XP. I upgraded its hard drive from 40 GB to 160 GB. Thus, it had some spare capacity available to load a new operating system. But having only 32 MB graphics card compare to the recommended 128 MB, I was sure that I wouldn't be able to explore its fullest potential, especially the Aero theme. However, I knew if anything went wrong, I wouldn't really feel sorry about the experience. I was pleasantly surprised, when I saw Windows 7 working perfectly fine on a 6 year old laptop. The old hardware which didn't have the necessary drivers all seem to work miraculously. There in lies the secret to the success of Windows 7. For Microsoft the biggest selling factor for Windows 7 lies in its ability to run successfully on older computers with low form factor. In the current economic climate, where people are reluctant to invest in a new computer, installing Windows 7 on an old computer would give the user an experience that is new, different and fast compared to when XP is installed.

How different is the experience compared to Windows XP? It is very different and for the most part very good. I however didn't like the default desktop background screen with the blue goldfish. It just seemed too cheesy. I only liked a couple of desktop background screens provided with the installation. The one with snow mountain peaks was good. Microsoft need to get some very good professional photographs for the desktop background, based on various themes, like Landscapes, Wildlife, Sealife, Portraits, Space, etc.

Here are a few comparative screenshots of XP and Windows 7 Ultimate Beta to give a flavour on how things compare.......

Control Panel (XP / Windows 7 Ultimate Beta)

Devices and Printers (Windows 7 Ultimate Beta only. No Single Screen Equivalent in XP)

Device Manager (XP / Windows 7 Ultimate Beta)

Help and Support(XP/Windows 7 Ultimate Beta)

One might notice that few of the screens are eerily similar, like the Device Management. Whilst some on XP look better for example, the Control Panel and Help & Support.

Windows 7 Ultimate Beta on a 1 year old Desktop:
My second installation of Windows 7 Ultimate Beta onto a 1 year old Desktop was pretty uneventful. As my Desktop was Vista Capable, there were really no issues with the compatability of my hardware. Furthermore, most of the hardware I added later on have updated Vista Drivers. The performance of Windows 7 on the Desktop is quite satisfactory.

Windows 7 Ultimate Beta on MacBook:
My third installation of Windows 7 Ultimate Beta was onto a MacBook using Bootcamp. The default drivers provided by Apple's installation disk for Vista worked for Windows 7. However, I got my first Blue screen when I updated the drivers for the trackpad. I had to do a System Restore to an earlier state (before the trackpad driver update) to get rid of the problem. This meant that, I cannot use the right click with a two finger tap. I personally feel the experience of Windows 7 is undoubtedly the best on MacBook, for the simple reason that the system is extremely responsive (in a way snappy). I feel that the trackpad in MacBook is the one bit of hardware, that sets MacBook truly apart from other Notebooks. I think the manufacturers of Windows Notebooks need to unashamedly try and duplicate the performace of the MacBook trackpad.

Windows 7 Ultimate Beta on VirtualBox:
My last installation of Windows 7 Ultimate Beta was onto VirtualBox on Ubuntu Intrepid OS. I had used VirtualBox in the past and it is very good to try any operating system, without the fear of crashing your system due to incompatible hardware. The performance of Windows 7 Utimate Beta on VirtualBox is quite similar that of Windows XP. Nothing spectacular, but adequate.

I really like the look and feel of Windows 7. It has got umpteen new features that do not exist in Windows XP. The website Gizmodo makes an interesting read about Windows 7 features, which is worth having a look before deciding for oneself.

But for me, I will surely upgrade to Windows 7, when it is released. Microsoft might pull the plug on the support for Windows XP once Windows 7 hits the streets. I thus think it is imperative for everyone to upgrade to Windows 7. Planning ahead would save the Windows XP users the agony associated with an upgrade of an Operating System.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Sound Troubleshooting in Ubuntu

Usually, whenever I run into problems with Sound on Ubuntu, I turn to the Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide on Ubuntu forums, which is very elaborate and easy to follow. Thanks to the above post, I managed to wriggle out of many a situation-which arose due to my overzealous nature of making too many changes that are difficult to track back upon. The problem is exacerbated by the presence of two sound cards on my desktop computer-one an onboard sound card and the other mounted on a PCI slot.

I also found another post with its responses on HOWTO: Surround sound in Pulse Audio very useful.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Indian IT's poster boy falls from grace

B. Ramalinga Raju, the poster boy of Indian IT and the most known business face from Andhra Pradesh has fallen from grace. The doyen of the Indian IT industry and the leader of Satyam Computers has admitted that he is no angel, but just a conman, cheat and a liar. The man who built Satyam Computers, which is now spread over 167 countries, across six continents and has about 55,000 employees has tarnished the image of India's IT sector forever. The ramifications of this scandal are, it might have a far reaching effect on India's economic growth.

Saturday 3 January 2009

Ubuntu Intrepid on MacBook using VirtualBox

I installed Ubuntu Intrepid on my MacBook using VirtualBox. Any reason for installing Ubuntu on Mac? None whatsoever.

VirtualBox is a x86 virtualisation software developed by Sun Microsystems. I used VirtualBox in the past to install Windows XP on Ubuntu and I have no complaints so far. VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts. Moreover, it is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

This is a Tutorial on how to install Ubuntu Intrepid on Mac:

1. Download VirtualBox for Mac.

2. Install VirtualBox.

3. Download the image file of Ubuntu Intrepid (The link is from Canonical UK server).

4. Burn the image file onto a CD or a DVD. This is how you do it:

For Mac OS X 10.3 or later
  1. Open Disk Utility. It's in the Utilities folder (/Applications/Utilities).
  2. If the disk image you want to use doesn't appear in the list, drag its icon to the Disk Utility window.
  3. Select the disk image and click Burn.
  4. Insert a blank CD or DVD into your computer's disc drive and follow the prompts.
5. Leave the Ubuntu CD or DVD in the DVD drive.

6. Start VirtualBox.

7. Select "New" and Click "Next".

8. Name the Installation. In my case I named it as Ubuntu.
Select Operating System: Linux.
Select Version: Ubuntu.

9. Select the Memory size. Recommended base memory is 256 MB. I chose 1 GB. Click "Next".

10. Create a new virtual hard disk. Click "Next"

11. Then select storage type as Fixed assuming that one would like to limit the guest operating system size. Click "Next".

12. Leave the location as Ubuntu and slide the bar to 25 GB. Click "Next".

13. Tick the Boot Hard Disk (Primary Master), select "Ubuntu.vdi" and thereafter Click "New" and then "Next".

You will come out with the following screen....

Click "Finish". Your virtual hard disk is installed and ready for use.

14. Remain within VirtualBox. Now select “Ubuntu” and then click “Settings".

15. Under "Storage" select “CD/DVD-ROM”. Then, check the “Mount CD/DVD Drive” and select “Host CD/DVD Drive". Then Click “OK”.

16. Now double-click on the virtual machine “Ubuntu”. A new window should launch. Followed by couple of other screen changes. To the capture mouse within the VirtualBox window click "OK". To bring back the mouse onto Mac environment click "cmd".

17. Now select “Start or Install Ubuntu”, with the arrow keys, then hit “Enter”. These screenshots follow...

18. Next you get 6 steps to setup Ubuntu Installation.
(i) In the Welcome screen you select the language. In my case I selected "English". Click "Forward".

(ii) In the second screen you select your timezone. Click "Forward".

(iii) In the third screen you select your Keyboard Layout. You might select "United Kingdom - MacKintosh". Click "Forward".

(iv) In the fourth screen you prepare the disk space. Select "Guided". Click "Forward".

(v) In the fifth screen give your details and then Click "Forward".

(vi) In sixth screen you will come with something like this. This is the final screen before the installation is carried out.

Just mind that before you click "Finish" select "Advanced" with regard to the location where the boot loader needs to be installed.

Select the location where the ATA VBOX HARDDISK is located.

You will see the following screens during installation....

You are almost there. Click "Restart now". Before you restart eject the Ubuntu Installation CD.

19. Before starting "Ubuntu" complete rest of the "Settings", which are self-explanatory.

Here you select your Ubuntu hard disk.

To get the full functionality of VirtualBox, like mouse integration, seamless and full screen modes of display and improved video support you need to install "VBoxGuestAdditions.iso". This would have been installed in the folder "/Applications/"

In this screen click + button on the right to add the USB devices.

You can set up a Shared Folder, which will allow you to share files between Mac and Ubuntu.

You are now done with the Ubuntu Installation. Only the installation of the Guest Additions needs to be done. For that Start Ubuntu.

20. In Accessories->Terminal run the following command:

sudo /dev/cdrom0/

VboxGuestAdditions will have now been installed. Before you restart Ubuntu you need to do one last thing.

21. You might be wondering why you are unable to increase the display screen beyond 800 x 600. For that you need to do the following (Thanks to Aviran Mordo):

Open your guest machine’s xorg.conf file in Terminal:

gksu gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

Find the device section, which should look like this:

Section "Device"
Identifier "Configured Video Device"

And replace it with this to enable the VirtualBox driver:

Section "Device"
Identifier "Configured Video Device"
Driver "vboxvideo"

Next find the screen section, which should look like this:

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Monitor "Configured Monitor"
Device "Configured Video Device"

And replace it with this, but change 1280×800 (if your's is a MacBook) to your preferred resolution:

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Device "VirtualBox graphics card"
Monitor "Generic Monitor"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1280x800"

Save, exit the editor and log out. You can now enable full screen display on Ubuntu Virtual Machine in Mac and also have a mouse pointer integration.

Good luck! with your installation.