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Date: Sunday, 16 Sep 2007 18:57

Microsoft’s new ClearType fonts for Vista are great. The fonts include Constantia, Corbel, Calibri, Cambria, Candara and Consolas.
Microsoft Vista Fonts

Getting them installed in Ubuntu is a breeze, thanks to a script I found.
To install the Vista ClearType fonts in Ubuntu, you need to install cabextract first. Cabextract is a utility found in the universe repository, so before you run the following command, make sure you have universe enabled in your repository list. Once this is done, install cabextract using:
$sudo apt-get install cabextract

Then, once that is done, use this script to install the Vista fonts. Create a file called “vista-fonts-installer.sh” in your home (~) directory.
Then open up a text editor and copy and paste the script into that file.
Do a chmod a+x ~/vista-fonts-installer.sh to make the file/script executable.
Then run the script using:
$ ~/vista-fonts-installer.sh

The script downloads the Powerpoint Viewer installer from microsoft.com, and then extracts the Vista cleartype fonts using cabextract. These fonts are then installed in the ~/.fonts directory.

Please remember that the ClearType Vista fonts are not free as in they are not GPL-ed or made available under a re-distributable license. Since you are downloading the fonts from the MS website, and since you might already have a Windows XP/Vista license, this is not a crime, but consider yourself warned against the perils of supporting closed systems :)


  1. Looks like the use of these fonts are restricted to only Microsoft Windows/Vista operating systems according to the terms of the license. I am sorry, but you’ll be installing them at your own risk.
  2. Also, please make sure you use the bash shell, or change the first line of the code to #!/bin/bash
  3. In retrospect, this was a bad post – I think we’re better off not using stuff folks don’t want us to use – let’s use the better, freer, easier to install fonts.

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "guides, looks and feel, microsoft, packa..."
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Date: Thursday, 13 Sep 2007 18:43

So Jorge Castro is now a Canonical employee!

Jorge, I for one, would love to see your mug again on Planet Ubuntu. I would love to see whiprush.org up and about again.

Jorge’s disappearance from the interwebs was followed by pleas for his return, about 9 months ago (you can find his last post here if you really want to). I used to love reading what Jorge had to say. It’s good to have him back in the Ubuntu world, now if only we could have his blog back too :) Welcome back, Jorge!

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "ubuntu, Ubuntu Sites"
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Date: Wednesday, 12 Sep 2007 18:13

I was in love with Acer laptops. I bought my first one, an Acer Travelmate 290 LMi in my second year of grad school. I did pay ~ $1200 for it, but it was awesome, right until the moment there were errors with the hard disk controllers about 3 years later. When I sold it for parts on ebay, it still retained more than 3 hours worth of charge in it’s battery. The finish and the quality of parts spoke loud and clear. I liked the simple looks, the ruggedness, and above all, the dependability.

So when I had to find a replacement, and was short on time and money, I settled for another Acer. An Acer Aspire 5003 LMi. Piece of junk. The plastic looks cheap. The “Aluminum” next to the keyboard is poorly spray painted plastic. The area next to the touchpad, and the left-click button have lost all their paint due to repeated use, and then look white. All within a year. For the last few days, occasionally, I would open up the laptop, and the display wouldn’t work properly. Loud cracks can be heard at the hinges when I open it up. I’d usually fix the display problem by opening the lid to an angle where the display worked. Today it failed completely. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the display to display anything coherent. The quality of the parts, and the “casing”, is terrible. I admit, this was a cheap laptop, but it had what I needed at a minimum. I am not someone who buys the cheapest thing around. I buy computers with exactly the minimum I need. This one has a Broadcom wireless card, but I thought I could live with that for a bit. I don’t need a separate video card – I never play games. I do need a large screen, and a DVD-burner – well, you get the point. I would have gladly paid $250 more to Acer for the same laptop with better quality.

Personally, I have vouched for Acer laptops, and have directly influenced my friends into buying at least 3-4 Acers. Now I feel like an idiot. I have to try something new. I don’t like how ThinkPads are designed with the recessed screen and clunky looks and all. The Sony Vaios I have known through friends and others have all been terrible – each of them making the trip back to Sony at least once. That leave the glitzy HPs and the Dells. I’d rather have a MacBook or the Pro, which looks infinitely cooler. Wish I had the money for a new MacBookPro. It has way more features and power than I need, though. Anyways, I feel much better having written this – may those that I recommended Acers to find it in them to forgive me!

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "Friends Etc., reviews, ubuntu"
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Date: Sunday, 09 Sep 2007 05:43

Ans: A guy in a pic….

Ubuntu support photo

Firedog support photo

Trivial, I know, and not too original either, since I got it from LiveJournal, but I couldn’t resist posting this :)

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "ubuntu"
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Date: Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 06:31

I read the impressive growth and traffic details for WordPress.com at Matt’s Blog. WordPress has always been very dear to me, and it makes me happy to note that the WordPress team grows from strength to strength, without compromising on values, and while keeping things open, almost entirely so.

However, the stat freak in me got another tool, and the results are surprising!

I did not have any clue that the number of 45-65 year olds that visit my site are above the average numbers for the internet by around 25-45%. Also, most of my visitors are as poor as I am, with an income of less than $30K a year. That is surprising when you realize that college graduates outnumber any other kind of visitor, based on education. Finally, the male-female disparity is not too high – I get 25% less female visitors, and 25% more male visitors than the average site. Here’s my quantcast report.

Now, like me, you must be thinking, what about ubuntu.com?
Maybe Canonical should sign up for the quantcast setup like WordPress.com and then we could start fixing the problem where, right now, my blog seems to get more visitors than ubuntu.com. Clearly, quantcast is orders-of-magnitude off with the numbers. Let’s hope the percentages are right when it comes to the demographics. If they are, then then, again, Ubuntu seems to attract a middle-aged, may I say “mature” crowd. Ubuntu.com attracts more Asian, Hispanics and “Others” than the average website out there. Also, “linux drivers” seems to be leading the charge of visitors to Ubuntu.com. It would be good to put something related to drivers – perhaps an article with links peppered throughout to the various compatibility resources and hardware profiling tools somewhere on the front page of help.ubuntu.com which seems to be quite a popular destination. Of course, if I had a say in how Ubuntu’s websites worked, I would first ensure that the help pages show up where they belong on Google searches. Somehow, I can’t seem to end up at the Ubuntu help wiki after a web search. I suspect the wiki software’s intricacies, and the “https://” (now why does a help wiki have to be served over https?), are partly responsible for that issue. You get the idea that shipit must be doing something right, since it seems to be quite a popular destination. Also, OpenSuse, FreeSpire and Damn Small Linux seem to the other Linux distributions that are popular among those that visit the Ubuntu website. Scanning the quantcast results might help lots of folks involved with planning, developing and marketing Ubuntu – whether it is deciding what/who to focus on, or finding out how meta-plans are working out.

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "ubuntu"
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Date: Saturday, 18 Aug 2007 00:08

I was looking for a replacement for SecureCRT in Ubuntu. Something that would let me save all my SSH connections and make it possible to open a connection with the least effort.

As is often the case, I found something better than SecureCRT – a panel applet for GNOME that gives me a drop-down list of SSH connections. SSHMenu is cool, way too cool.
SSH Menu

Above, you can see my list of ssh accounts in all their glory. A connection is just a click away.

When you set up the connections, you can specify the geometry – ie, where on your desktop you want the gnome-terminal window to pop up, as well as a “profile” for the gnome-terminal instance – very handy if you want to have different color schemes for different ssh accounts to be able to distinguish between them better.
SSH Menu Options

What’s even better is, in the “Hostname (etc)” field, you can prepend ssh options to the hostname. The figure below shows my port forwarding setup for IRC at school, since I can’t chat using port 6667 at school.
SSHMenu Account Options

There’s a Debian/Ubuntu repository for SSHMenu, and of course, nothing stops you from downloading the .deb packages and installing them if you don’t wish to add another repository to you list of repositories. I wonder how long before SSHMenu finds itself into the Ubuntu repositories :)

Once you get SSHMenu installed, you can add it to your panel by right-clicking on your GNOME panel, and selecting “Add to Panel”. SSHMenu should be listed as “SSH Menu Applet” under the “Utilities” section. Then all you have to do is use the tool to add accounts that pops-up when you install the applet, or add the accounts later by clicking on the “SSH” in your panel. However, this still doesn’t take us to “one-click” login, since you will be prompted for your password by the server you are trying to connect to.

To make the connections truly one-click (or two-click), you might want to setup password-less logins using ssh-keygen and ssh-copy-id. A quick overview of that process follows:
On your local computer, type:
$ssh-keygen -t rsa
When prompted for a password, you may want to enter none. If you enter a password there, you will have to enter it everytime you try to use the “passwordless” login, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Enter a password here. Then when you try to connect to the accounts using SSHMenu, you will asked for the password only once, the very first time. (Thanks to Grant, SSHMenu’s author for the explanation in the comments).

Once your RSA key-pair is generated, you need to add the public key to your server’s ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file. You can do this very easily by typing (on your local computer):
$ssh-copy-id ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub username@example.com
This will copy your public key for the just-generated RSA keypair to the example.com ssh account, where your username is “username”.
Of course, for this passwordless login to work, the server needs to accept this method of authentication. There’s an old article at the Debian Administration blog that describes the process in a little more detail, and countless others have written about this, so you won’t have trouble finding info.

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "applications, gnome, packages, ubuntu"
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Date: Tuesday, 14 Aug 2007 06:01

This thought just struck me: the GNOME “save file” icon is still an image of a floppy (or it is at least in Gnumeric). How many people still remember what a floppy looks like?

Should the save icon be replaced by something else (a picture of a cd/usb drive)? Or should floppy discs be “icon”ized forever?
Somehow, all these days, the above thought never occurred to me. That icon with a floppy drive in it meant “Save” and to be honest, I have failed to think “floppy” when I have seen the icon before.

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "snippets, ubuntu"
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Date: Friday, 03 Aug 2007 16:59

Jem Matzan thinks we technical writers treat you as stupid drooling idiots.

Do I? I can honestly say I don’t. I write for the competent computer user who has switched to Ubuntu. Anything that 90-95% of the people who formerly used Windows or Macs, and are competent enough to help others won’t be published here. Guaranteed. I can say that since I have a target audience of one – myself before I knew what I wrote here. I write so that, some day in the future, when I search for a solution to a problem, I get the pleasure that only a goojà vu (google + déjà vu :)) can provide – finding something you wrote as the result of a Google search is priceless.

There are some authors of blogs that write tutorials and guides that cover all and sundry. The installation of some software that should be pretty straightforward to install, and so on, ad nauseum. I understand that the pleasure of earning a check through Google’s adsense can be great, and I wish these authors good luck. There are also the book equivalent of these sites that really do treat Ubuntu users as dunces.

But Jem, what’s the problem with any of that? The world needed a “Linux for Dummies” – something that is inanely simple to install, setup, use and maintain – and that is exactly what Ubuntu is. Power users don’t need to fear it since it does not take away anything in doing that. So there you are – a Linux-based OS that is simple enough for the stupid and as (if not more) flexible and powerful than the best OSes out there. It’s not like there aren’t books out there that don’t address the intricacies of subjects that are technically complex. The wiki and the Official Ubuntu Book, not to mention all the documentation and books out there for Debian all address the power users’ documentation needs.

I was happy to read that article, especially the parallels drawn with how Mac users were once perceived the way the author perceives Ubuntu users now. I was happy because it is a sign that we are moving in the right direction – towards a “Linux for Human Beings” (regardless of IQ).

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "commentary"
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Date: Thursday, 26 Jul 2007 00:37

You guys must remember Jessamyn, the librarian who posted a video about installing Ubuntu at, where else, the library.

Well, by some strange coincidence, which cannot be explained rationally, I ran into her again on the tubes. I followed the user profile link at this comment on Ask MetaFilter to end up at her profile page.

Of the billions of unknown users of the internet, we are two.

What are the chances?, I ask you!! The mind blows. :)

In other news, there is no news – I’m on the slow track to the Ph.D.

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "Other sites, ubuntu"
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Date: Monday, 04 Jun 2007 14:29

I woke up on Thursday with a left arm more painful than a 100 episodes of Wheel of Fortune. I had almost pulled an all-nighter the night before to finish reviewing/correcting a paper. I went to the doctor, fearing the worst. My left wrist was aching, and no change of position or angle would suppress the hurt.

The doctor said I had tenosynovitis – which is a member of the much talked-about Repetitive Strain Injuries. He advised me against using the laptop on my lap – this keep my hands all hunched up together. He also advised a couple of days of rest. So needless to say, I haven’t typed much over the weekend, though I wanted to write a short guide on implementing a Getting Things Done workflow in Linux. I had set things up for GTD the past week, and the search for tools that work on Linux was frustrating, to say the least. I finally had to narrow it down to an online tool that seems very capable of the task. I have been itching to write the article and yet have resisted.

Monday brought me back to work, and I thought I should look at options to reduce the risk of recurrence of the pain. For two reasons – the pain was real bad, and the doctor said that repeated occurrences of RSI would lead to the much-dreaded Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and perhaps permanent numbness of the digits in my hands.

GNOME is very advanced when it comes to providing methods to save your hands.

There is the Typing Break in GNOME’s keyboard preferences dialog (System -> Preferences -> Keyboard). Here’s a snapshot:

It is easy enough to ask you computer to lock up every once in an hour or so for 5 minutes to enforce a break.

But for those of us who are not satisfied with a fly swatter to swat flies, there is workrave, with the little sheep for a mascot.

You can install workrave using:
$sudo apt-get install workrave

Once installed, you can add it to your panel as an applet by right-clicking on a panel and adding the applet:

Once on the panel, you get to right click on the panel applet and set preferences:
workrave preferences

There’s a whole lot to choose from – you can choose to have micro-breaks of less than minute every 10 minutes, say. You can also enforce a longer break every hour or so. A break of 5 minutes every hour seems normal. You can also choose whether to be able to postpone the break when you get the warning of an impending break or not. A break can be either just a disabled keyboard, or a locked screen too, just so you don’t use your mouse to sneak a peek at you mail, or visitor stats :)

Workrave also has a neat feature where you can exercise your fingers, wrist, neck and arms during the break – there is an on-screen display of how to do the exercise and a virtual character does it with you. Marcel has written about workrave in detail and even has some more screenshots – including one of the dudette who does the exercises with you.

In addition to the forced typing breaks, I am thinking this would be a good time to switch to the Dvorak keyboard layout. The initial learning phase where typing gets really slow is what’s holding me back. Maybe that is one thing to filed under “someday/maybe” in my GTD system. :)

Author: "Carthik" Tags: "applications, gnome, ubuntu"
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Date: Monday, 21 May 2007 17:07

Ubuntu offers a lot of fonts, in addition to the defaults installed, and the MicroSoft msttcorefonts package, in its repositories. All these fonts mentioned here are provided as packages, which can easily installed using command line tools like apt-get or using Synaptic. These fonts will come in handy for designing flyers, or for designing headers and graphics for the web using the Gimp. Also, some of these fonts are pretty commonly used to render pages, like Lucida.

I will save the packages with the biggest collection of fonts for the end here. Since I have included screenshots of most of the fonts, and this article is sorta long, please read on by clicking the “More” link below.


Author: "Carthik" Tags: "applications, gnome, looks and feel, pac..."
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Date: Monday, 21 May 2007 02:36

Via Chris Ilias’ Blog comes this gem of a tip.

If you use Mozilla Thunderbird, and love the threaded view, but hate losing the threaded view whenever you click on “Sender” or “Date” to sort the messages, then this is the tip for you. This helps you keep the threaded view regardless of how you sort the messages.

Go to Tools–>Options–>Advanced–>General, and select the Config Editor option.

Thunderbird Threaded View

In the Config Editor, search for “mailnews.thread_pane_column_unthreads” by typing it in at the top. When you see the preference, change the value from “True” to “False” by double-clicking on it, or by right clicking and changing the value. This will help you keep the threaded view stuck across the different sorting methods.

I find the threaded view useful when browsing the list of bug-related emails, for one. Of course, I use the Claws GTK email client much more than I do Thunderbird, but I have Thunderbird setup on an infrequently used office computer, and I thought many of you might be using Thunderbird anyways.

Author: "carthik" Tags: "Friends Etc., applications, snippets"
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Date: Thursday, 17 May 2007 18:58

The utility “tee” is very useful for plumbing on the command line. Curiously enough, it gets its name from the T-splitter used in plumbing, shown below:
T-splitter used in Plumbing

Say you want to run a command, and be able to see the output and errors on the screen, and be able to save them to a file. That’s where tee comes in, so you could do a:
$sudo apt-get upgrade 2>&1 | tee ~/apt-get.log
…to run apt-get upgrade and save the output and errors to the file apt-get.log in your home directory.

Purists please excuse the following explanation :) The “2″ refers to the “tap” from which the errors pour out (called stderr). The “1″ refers to the tap from which the output pours out. The 2>&1 makes the errors to also pour out of the output tap. So then stderr goes to stdout. The pipe “|” redirects the output to tee. Now tee splits the output of the previous command two ways, and puts it both in ~/apt-get.log and in the standard output, which happens to be your screen/terminal.

tee is also handy when you have a small permissions problem. Say you want to write some text to a file “filename.txt” owned by the “root” user - you would just use something like:
$sudo vim filename.txt
and then change the file, right?

Now suppose you want to echo what you write, and write the file, all in one command, you then can use tee thusly:
$echo "localhost" | sudo tee filename.txt > /dev/null

This would write the text “localhost″ to the file filename.txt which is not owned by you. The output of tee itself will go to /dev/null (nothingness) instead of the standard output, which is your terminal.

Don’t lose sleep over this, but someday it will come handy, and when you can figure out why the “sudo” does not apply after the “>” in your command, remember tee and come back here.

For all your command line redirecting needs, and to learn to wield pipes and tees like nunchakus read this excellent page.

Author: "carthik" Tags: "snippets, commands, administration, ubun..."
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Date: Friday, 11 May 2007 13:13

I installed no software, except for the Operating System, and look - it works!

Jessamyn is a librarian with 3 donated PCs and no legitimate OS. She installs Ubuntu and shows us why she loves it.

I woke and saw this. Today will be a good great day!

I hope she posts a follow-up of how people in her library use it.

Author: "carthik" Tags: "Friends Etc., ubuntu"
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Date: Tuesday, 08 May 2007 21:08

From BBC, we get to learn that Ubuntu and Intel are working together to get to the point were Ubuntu-powered mobile devices such as cellphones and PDAs. They talk about the Ubuntu Mobile and Embedded project which hopes to have its first release in October 2007.

Pervasive Ubuntu - oh yeah!

It’s really cool to see Intel pushing the envelope with Open Source friendliness. Maybe AMD needs to catch up and brush up the ATI drivers - open source them and have a fighting chance in the newly growing desktop Linux market.

By the way, I came to know of the BBC article via Ercan, a reader, who adds:

I enjoy your ubuntu blog. I like the general updates on ubuntu but don’t forget the tips and tricks.

Tips, hmm, yes… it is hard to come by good ones everyday - and it becomes harder as Ubuntu gets better. I will work harder or it, Ercan. :)

Author: "carthik" Tags: "news"
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Date: Wednesday, 02 May 2007 03:20

So Dell did not get caught in the storm of it’s making - it swept the storm off its feet! This is the day the scales started tipping.

Dell will start offering consumers PCs with Ubuntu 7.04 (aka Feisty Fawn) on its PCs for interested customers. The Dell Ideas in Action Blog announced as much earlier today, stating very clearly that Ubuntu was their distribution of choice, and that they have worked out the specifics of the deal with Canonical, the entity that support Ubuntu’s development. Read Canonical’s brief announcement here. According to Canonical’s Jane Silber, the timing couldn’t be better:

“The market is ready,” Silber said. “We think the combination of the timing, the technology and the partner are aligned to make it happen.”

There is a video interview with Mark Shuttleworth over at the Direct2Dell blog in which he talks about how the deal came about, and how this will make wide Linux adoption a much easier goal to achieve. He’s right when he says that this will increase Linux’s visibility across the board, and draw out closet Linux technologists who will now see some commercial benefit to advertising the Linux expertise they had, but never really talked about before.

I think this is a big step forward - hell, I look forward to answering, “what’s that Ubuntu-thing on your laptop?” with “Haven’t you heard, it comes pre-installed on some Dell PCs?”

Kudos to Dell for following up on their promise to listen to customers. My voted counted, for once. Depending on how many Ubuntu laptops get sold, Dell might just be the trailblazer in making and selling computers - once again. The interesting thing is, I wonder if Dell sees the future, can the others be far behind. Also, going by the example Mark states in the interview about how Linux adoption on servers led to hardware manufacturers ensuring that their stuff was up to snuff on servers, this can only mean better support for Ubuntu from the hardware component and peripheral manufacturers.

Congratulations Ubuntu - stand up and be recognized now!

Author: "carthik" Tags: "interviews, commentary, ubuntu, news"
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Date: Saturday, 28 Apr 2007 14:59

The zeroth issue of the Ubuntu Full Circle Magazine has been out for a while now. You can download it in your chosen language here. If it is not available in your chosen language, then maybe you can help translate it the next time for others like you.

full circle logo
The magazine is a community effort - I think it was kickstarted on this Ubuntu forum post by the forum user ronniet. “Development” of issues revolves around the wiki. The Ubuntu Magazine page lists what you can do to contribute articles and columns.

Maybe I should contribute an article or a regular column in the magazine - after all it is a volunteer effort and the magazine is provided free-of-cost.

Author: "carthik" Tags: "Ubuntu Sites, ubuntu, books"
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Date: Wednesday, 25 Apr 2007 18:13

As part of the Ubuntu Open Week, everyone interested had a chance to ask Mark Shuttleworth, the SABDFL, their questions.

Thanks to the volunteer efforts of the wiki gardeners, you can read the entire interview online. I was intending to post the entire interview here, after formatting it, but since the interview at the wiki is formatted, and ready, I will just share the salient points.

  1. Regarding requesting ISVs to port their applications to Linux, Mark says that unless Linux users decide to pay for software like AutoCAD and Photoshop on Linux, the ISVs won’t migrate their apps so easily - since there are two things that drive ISVs to explore new oppurtunities - the raw size of the users in a market, and their willingness to pay for software - Mark says Linux is doing well on the number-of-users front, but the second factor is critical. I think one of the ISVs have to take the plunge, and try selling software to Linux users, and serve as a case study for the others to follow.
  2. Regarding the $3 MS OS initiative, Mark says this guy gets it. Basically, there are lots of reasons why, despite the MS OS being only $3, Linux makes a better choice. Interesting.
  3. The inevitable question of why Launchpad is not open-sourced yet was raised. This time, I think I understand the reasons behind it being closed, thanks to Mark’s answer. Basically, launchpad might remain closed till launchpad.net is established as the pivot of bug-tracking and as a general software development support system. Releasing the source now might mean that there will be many “launchpads” like the many bugzillas, thus compounding the problem launchpad is trying to address - that of not having a central issue tracking system that tracks the same unique issue across multiple bug trackers.
  4. Canonical will not go public anytime in the near future, and will also not accept funding from venture capital firms. Mark’s reasoning is that accepting any sort of external financial support will shift Canonical’s focus to a short-term profit/finance driven strategy. Canonical wants to take the long-term view and focus on building a better Linux desktop, among other things.
  5. Here’s the most inspiring part of the interview - Mark says the goals with Ubuntu are to be the best desktop linux distribution and to create a self-sustaining platform for Ubuntu, one that does not rely on license fees. He admits it has never been done before, but believes it can be done.

There is a lot more where these points came from. Read it. The interview seems to suggest there will be another Q&A session with Mark on Firday, April 27th, but the the Open Week Schedule does not have such a session listed. So I am not too sure if there will be another of these sessions. If there is one, I hope I can find it possible to be there for it, live.

Author: "carthik" Tags: "interviews, ubuntu"
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Date: Sunday, 22 Apr 2007 11:39

Sure as clockwork, work on the next version of Ubuntu has started.

I was wondering what the collective noun used for the testing releases would be. We’ve had an “Array” of Hedgehogs, a “Herd” of Fawns, a “Knot” of Efts, a “Sounder” of Warthogs, a “Colony” of Badgers, a “Flight” of Drakes. I was hoping they would choose a “Machination” of Gibbons (”a machination of monkeys” exists), but no, we have the simpler, more functional “tribe”. So the testing releases will be called Tribe 1, Tribe 2 etc…

Author: "carthik" Tags: "releases, ubuntu"
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Date: Saturday, 21 Apr 2007 20:02

^txt2regex$ is a lifesaver. It helps you create regular expression strings in a step by step process, by describing what your regex pattern should do in English (or your own language). The tool can create RegExes for use with 23 different programs, including sed, vim, mysql, and procmail. When you start the program, it will ask you a series of questions like “1. do you want to start matching at the beginning of lines? or 2. search anywhere?” and “this is followed by…. 1. A specific character…” etc… download it and run it and you will see.

Anyone who has worked with regular expressions for searching and optionally replacing stuff in files knows what a godsend then can be if you get the regex down pat - but they would also know what a time sink they can be if you can’t whip up exactly what you want. In the past, when faced with this kind of a situation, I would read man pages, books, experiment, fail and then, finally, succeed after a good half hour or so. txt2regex is a tool that eliminates the confusion. Totally.

You can install txt2regex on Ubuntu by doing a:
$sudo apt-get install txt2regex

Among its features include the ability to print a list of characteristics of the regular expression syntax for various tools, a history tool which keeps track of you past regexes, and some pre-built regexes that are often used - for dates, times and numbers.

For example,
$txt2regex --all --make number3
will create the regex for all supported tools. The regex will match a number of the form “34,412,069.90″

Here’s the output:

carthik@milan:~$ txt2regex --all --make number3

### number LEVEL 3: level 2 plus optional commas, like: 34,412,069.90

 RegEx awk       : [+-]?[0-9]!!(,[0-9]!!)*(.[0-9]!!)?
 RegEx ed        : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx egrep     : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx emacs     : [+-]?[0-9]!!(,[0-9]!!)*(.[0-9]!!)?
 RegEx expect    : [+-]?[0-9]!!(,[0-9]!!)*(.[0-9]!!)?
 RegEx find      : [+-]?[0-9]!!(,[0-9]!!)*(.[0-9]!!)?
 RegEx gawk      : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx grep      : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx javascript: [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx lex       : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx lisp      : [+-]?[0-9]!!\(,[0-9]!!\)*\(\.[0-9]!!\)?
 RegEx mawk      : [+-]?[0-9]!!(,[0-9]!!)*(.[0-9]!!)?
 RegEx mysql     : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(\.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx ooo       : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx perl      : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx php       : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx postgres  : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(\.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx procmail  : [+-]?[0-9]!!(,[0-9]!!)*(.[0-9]!!)?
 RegEx python    : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx sed       : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx tcl       : [+-]?[0-9]!!(,[0-9]!!)*(.[0-9]!!)?
 RegEx vbscript  : [+-]?[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})?
 RegEx vi        : [+-]{0,1}[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2}){0,1}
 RegEx vim       : [+-]=[0-9]{1,3}(,[0-9]{3})*(.[0-9]{2})=

$txt2regex --help
prints out a short help message


man txt2regex
gives some more info.

What would be handy is if txt2regex had an extension that allowed one to deconstruct a regex - give it a regex and it tells you what it does in plain English. Also, I cannot seem to create regexes for the mod_rewrite module in apache. I suspect that since mod_rewrite supports POSIX regexes, I could just run with one or the other of the regexes created by txt2regex. Since I haven’t tried it, I can’t say which one of the 23, just yet.

Author: "carthik" Tags: "packages, applications, commands, ubuntu"
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