Category Archives: Linux

2009 already? An Obama-term away from Dec 2012!

It seems weird that this is the last year I can write dates like 2-9-9. It was fun while it lasted, but it seems we are into the last single digit year of our life! It feels so much more close to 2012 – the year marked by many to mean various different significant things. Whether we really do witness the doomsday; or the return of a Planet X; or a global awakening to psychic connection aided by the return of Quetzalcoatl; or an opening to another dimention to a parallel earth; or an alien invasion, it remains to be seen. Amongst such vivid imaginations, there is another prediction made, that seems more real, which talks about America’s economic downfall. In this world of monopoly-seeking companies giving little heed to ethics, it is possible. This is the age of companies trying new and improved ways to shackle their customers. Even Airtel in India has bought into the completely dumb concept of credit history (see Q26 FAQ).

Thankfully it is the Indian Government and its BSNL making the rules in Indian telecom industry, but USA, today more than ever, needs Obama’s blue print for change, if they wish to make things right. A liberal like Obama has been long awaited. His for-the-people school of thought has made him prescribe Free and Open Source Software for many of his departments (see this and this). Looking forward to an opensource friendly and flourishing technology industry in the near future with no locks and privileges. The time for democracy is here!

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Ravings and Ranting about the Land of Opportunities

So its been 2 months since I landed in America. Time flies!

I have had some great times, even though lifestyle hasn’t changed much from the college life we led in India. There are various aspects of living in America that took time to get used to. I worked at the bookstore for a month, and it was hard to maintain punctuality. Keeping time was not something we made a significant effort to do in India. 8:00 AM is not the same as 8:05 AM here. I learned that the hard way!

The biggest shocker was, however, the telephone services here. We are so used to “incoming free” and “free local SMS” in India, that when AT&T charged me heavily for incoming calls I felt outraged! As if it wasn’t enough that they do not let anyone buy a postpaid connection without credit history and SSN, they had to fleece me on prepaid!

The cost of books is also astonishing here! Its usually at least 10 times its cost in my country! It is as if the American leaders are trying to discourage their kids to use books! What ever happened to paperbag, all books here have to look like a beautiful hardbound Worldbook encyclopaedia! No student ever asked for that!

Food was said to be cheap here. Unfortunately of all places, I chose to be at Fairfax, which ranks among the most expensive county in America. Apart from a heafty rent, I felt the pinch spending on food. I haven’t even had many cuisines here, like I used to have in India. No Chinese, Mongolian or Italian (save the pizzas) for 2 whole months now! Thanks to Patel Bros however, we have access to a lot of Indian food and groceries. I found my beloved Maggi hot and sweet tomato chili sauce! – the secret ingredient in all my cooking.

I managed to squeeze in some DotA nights here too! Thanks to a few friends I made here, who are Warcraft 3 crazy, I never had to renounce my religion from my MNIT days!

I have a teaching assistantship now, at Computer Resources Department (so no more customer service at the bookstore)! I am assistant to a Unix Administrator, not a professor. That basically means I have to do the same linux support job and server management that I volunteered for at my undergraduate university in India, and whats more, I get great pay for it!

Weather is getting cold here. We have started to consisteantly hit the 50 degree fahrenheit at nights. I am looking forward to my first winter in USA. I have seen cold winters at Jaipur in India, so I am not nervous, though I have never been to subzero cetigrade places.

Fridays are a practical holiday here. No classes or appointments on Fridays. Infact the office hours are shorter on Fridays than even Saturdays in many places at the University. So I consistantly get a 3 day weekend. That helps me keepup with my various non-academic interests like computer gaming, surfing the internet, catching up on friends blogs, watching movies and taking part in flamewars on mailing lists. Not that doing 2 subjects a semester is any kind of a load worth mentioning, it is however taxing to sit in 3 hour long lectures with just one 10 minute break in between.

I constantly get to travel to Washinton DC. Went there last Thursday too, to attend the Linux Day 2008 organized by Novell and HP. Their target audience was the industry, but I learned about many new technologies, and got a wind of whats coming up in the Linux domain in near future!

Seems like a decently long update, so I will stop raving now. I am yet to cover many more interesting events. Hope I get other nights like tonight soon.

A week at foss.IN/2007

This has been long overdue now! I had this half finished and saved as a draft for ages! So here goes…

The Best Month Ever: How It All Started

December 01, 2007: I flew to Bengaluroo with Anant Narayanan (and lived at his place for the rest of the week), after what seemed to be the end of a huge war. Semester 7 of my undergrad degree was finally over, and however badly I had performed, there was a sense of accomplishment. Good times were coming, we could just feel it in the air…

Foss.IN  Project Days Poster 

December 04: The day had come. The start to foss.IN Project Days.This was surely the crowning glory of the event. I spent most of Day 01 at the OpenSolaris Project Day. It was nice to learn about what the future looks like for OpenSolaris. The day kick started with Glynn Foster‘s “The Secret Diary Of an OpenSolaris Hacker“, which was essentially an overview of how to contribute as a developer. The rest of the day followed the same tone, and primarily covered Project Indiana.

In the evening however, I was invited to dinner, with the Mozilla gang (thank god Anant was a speaker at the Mozilla project day!). So all of us good folks went to “Sunny’s”, a superb Italian restaurant. I had already befriend Mary Colvig during the day, but it was great talking to Myk, Axel, Chris, Krishnakant and others…

December 05 : We slowly sleepwalked into the auditorium complex by 11:00 AM. I spent most of Day 02, catching up with what I had missed at the Mozilla project day on the 4th. We also got Gman (Glynn Foster) to demonstrate DTrace at the OpenSolaris Stall. It is always a great learning experience to know it from the ‘pros’. Now I am really convinced about giving OpenSolaris a second shot (My first experience was not so good with build_56, minus[-] xvm, zfs, dtrace and a whole bunch of device drivers!). Later in the afternoon, we setup the Gentoo stall. Anant distributed the Gentoo T-Shirts. I also met fox2mike (Shyam Mani) for the first time! he is quite a character.

Pranav, Anant Narayanan and Me  The stall

Later Anant and I sat in the unused Hall C/60, where Prasad from Synovel was discussing his plans on Spicebird with Myk and Axel from Mozilla. We talked with Prasad through the following days too, and I am most eager to try out their product. They were to make an alpha release by the end of December.

Mozilla had a party that night. It must have been a group of nearly 100 people at Opus, a nice lounge with beer, good music and karaoke. We had nice chat with Myk Melez and Chris Hofmann.

Chris, Myk, Anant and Me(behind the camera)  Axel and Michell Baker  Krishnakant and Mary  Myk (with his back), Me and Anant  Naba Kumar and Anjuta 

This is when Myk suddenly became my role model. He is apparently, and I am quoting Chris Hofmann here, the second oldest recruit of Mozilla! Myk graduated from University of Santa Cruz, and got involved with Mozilla during his “vacation year”, and it seems he has remained on vacation ever since and has written great code in that time! Oh, and how can I miss out the ‘Convertible’. Myk owns an awesome sports car in California! Wow!

We did not stay too long, because Anant had an early talk in the morning.

December 06: Atul Chitnis walks on stage to start the “inauguration ceremony” of the main conference. This was such a paradox after two wonderful days with OpenSolaris and Mozilla! We came dressed in Gentoo colors on this day, and Anant had his first talk at the 120 seater, ‘Making Gentoo Tick‘.

Making Gentoo tick!  OSol Hackcenter

The talk was a hit, and we had visitors to our stall all day. In the evening I attended the OpenSolaris Hack Center, where I got a chance to hack on a codebase based on build_78! I chose a bug with the time program, which sent my Laptop clock for a six. Just as Anant started his second talk, this one titled Plan9 from bell Labs, I decided to call it a day and be an audience again. His talk was more or less similar to his freed 2007 talk, except this time, his crowd was a LOT more intelligent. We were thrilled by the kind of reception and the 20 minute long Questions round at the end!

So overall, a very successful day for Anant. (He even got 3 or 4 awesome job offers!)

December 07: Hail t3rmin4t0r for giving us the Hack Center, else Mozilla Hackathon would have not happened! My previous post talks more…

We stayed in the area until end of lunch (Hack Center was a section in the lunch hall…awesome or what!). We finally got to meet Mitchell Baker! You could see she was a little twitchy, she had a light meal, and head to the 750 seater, to setup before her talk… and what a talk! It was a revelation to know that Mozilla Foundation is a ‘Not For Profit’ establishment! Most of her talk revolved around the business structure of Mozilla, and how it facilitates effective opensource development. After this happened the lightning talks. Incidently this was the ‘all star’ session, where everyone from Rasmus Ledorf to Rusty Russel did a 5 min. Anant Narayanan gave a lightning talk on his ‘Lightning Talk Timer’, that was being used in the background.

This was the end of the day’s proceedings, well almost. Later in the evening we took Myk, Axel and Chris to Gangotri, a local Chaat store. Myk had been complaining all week that Taj Residency was showing him the India they were expecting, not the India as it really is. So Anant and I decided, what better than giving them a taste of what the street food here tastes like. They had Paapdi Chaat and Panipuri. All of them liked panipuri, but not the former. Axel was best able to adjust to the taste however, and the spicy pani in panipuri was not that big a deal for him as the others. Maybe its the Aryan connection? He is German afterall!

Myk trying panipuri  Axel liked panipuri (the Aryan connection!)

We also sent sweet boxes for Mary as she could not join us. There was some issue with customs over the Mozilla T-Shirts…

December 08: Relatively a dull day.

Most of the time flew in dreaming of yesterdays. I managed to catch hold of Glynn Foster for a quick picture. It felt good side-by-side my Google Summer of Code Administrator for OpenSolaris organization. The day had lots of photos with friends from IRC. We finally seemed to have found time for our friends. I also had a good talk with Prasad on a wide range of topics. We started at Spicebird and ended up discussing his IIIT Hyderabad days!

Distro Greaph  Glynn and Me

Closing Ceremony: The day ended with Rusty

Sounds funny! In words of Atul Chitnis, foss.in has this unsaid tradition of doing something different as a closing ceremony each year. In a very dramatic style, he announces “We have done keynotes, felicitations, rockshows but this year, we do Rusty”. Interesting! What followed was that Rusty Russel started the session with anecdotes of how his first contributions to Opensource had come about. Eventually, he got the whole crowd involved in sharing their first experiences, and finally the entire hall was on stage. The last bit of it felt a little stupid and overdone, but as far as Rusty is concerned, he is simply one of the best presenters I have come across.

This year we do Rusty!  Show me the code!

We didnot stay for the FOSS.in party afterwards. I had my train back to Chennai that night so we left as soon as the closing ceremony was over. With it ended the best week I have had the entire year! FOSS.IN ROCKS!

freed, like never before!

Another edition of the annual FLOSS meet, but this was no FreeDel, this is freed.in!

It was a rocking weekend! Feels great to have met so many cool people, some of whom I already knew by their IRC nick. Turns out, most of the speakers were already connected with the community and you can find a whole bunch of this elite group flock at #linux-india, the most happening place to be, apart from freed.in! It is heartening to find out that so many people are actually making a living out of the Free Software revolution in India. It somehow empowered my belief in the Indian initiative. There were some great talks on new ideas and tools on the GNU/Linux front, and some interesting workshops were conducted, the food was good, but it was meeting all of the guys from the Indain FLOSS Community in flesh, that was the highlight of the event.

I was there with Anant Narayanan, a friend from college, who spoke on Plan9 from Bell Labs. I have been fascinated by the new concept ever since he started working on it as part of Google Summer of Code 2007. Its a whole new approach to an Operating System, and the folks at Bell Labs have done well to rethink the UNIX philosophy. Best part about Anant’s talk was that he bashed up and guillotined Tux, and got away with it at a “pro-Linux” conference! Sad that OldMonk and folks were missing from his talk, or he would have been banned from freed.in for life!

We attended various other talks. “10 things you didnot know about Python” by Gopal from Yahoo had some interesting hacks about programming in Python. Raj Mathur’s “How to be a Criminal” was about software patents. Its worth mentioning that India is one of the few countries with no Software Patenting System, and that is something my friends and I have discussed at college too. India is probably the best country to live in, if you are a software developer and have a product to sell. “Digitally Sound” by Niyam Bhushan was one of my favorite talks. I had once tried the JACK Audio Connection Kit, along with other tools like Ardour, Creox and hydrogen. However, Niyam Bhushan explained what it takes to be a real musician. Along with using these tools effectively, you needed an ingredient X – the human knack of differentiating sound and pitch – which took center stage in his talk. He was very inspiring and I certainly wish to give my dream of digitally composing music a second shot. While I missed the panel meeting that happened later that evening on the first day, Anant tells me it was quite eventful, and they had some valuable discussions.

All work and no play, at linux-delhi? No way! On Friday night, a party went to a lavish place – “The Golden Dragon” – for dinner and some drinks, and I hear they had a great time. I wasn’t part of this celebration either, as I visited my sister and my naughty nephew! I had a good time myself with family. On Saturday, before catching the night bus back to Jaipur, Anant and I had dinner at Saravana Bhavan in Connaught Place, which served the best South Indian food I have had in months!

Dual boot OpenSolaris and Linux

So I started working on OSol a little more than a month ago and realized that dual boot might be more desirable than virtualization for initial stages of my project. There is nothing that can replace a native install. So here’s an easy way that I followed for setting it up…

First install OSol on a partition of size say 20 GB. Solaris does not allow installing on anything other than the first partition, so it has to be done first. The remaining space on the disk could either be formatted with freeDOS or left unpartitioned, depending upon how much space you need for Linux.

Next, install any linux distro on the second primary partition. The thing to note here is that, since we are installing on a primary partition, the grub of Linux will not replace the one for OSol, and hence both can exist simultaneously. The bootloader will simply point to one of them (at this time it will point to the Linux one). So here’s what the partition table looks like:

Disk /dev/sda: 120.0 GB, 120034123776 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 14593 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1               2        1960    15735667+  bf  Solaris
/dev/sda2            1961        2222     2104515   82  Linux swap / Solaris
/dev/sda3   *        2223        4833    20972857+  83  Linux
/dev/sda4            4834       14593    78397200    c  W95 FAT32 (LBA)

Command (m for help):

So when you reboot, the Linux grub will take control. But how do we boot into the OSol installation? Simple, just make the Solaris partition as bootable instead of the linux one, i.e. in this case, make /dev/sda1 active, instead of the /dev/sda3. Then reboot into Solaris and add a simple command to the /boot/grub/menu.lst, which will help you select linux from the OSol grub. (Remember by this method, after you select Linux from the OSol grub, the Linux grub will be shown, so it is possible for you to install multiple Linux or a Windows XP, in the other primary partitions – A maximum of 4 are permitted on a single hard disk).

Here’s what the menu.lst in the OpenSolaris should look like:

#---------- ADDED BY BOOTADM - DO NOT EDIT ----------
title Solaris Nevada snv_56 X86
kernel /platform/i86pc/multiboot
module /platform/i86pc/boot_archive
#---------------------END BOOTADM--------------------
#---------- ADDED BY BOOTADM - DO NOT EDIT ----------
title Solaris failsafe
kernel /boot/multiboot kernel/unix -s
module /boot/x86.miniroot-safe
#---------------------END BOOTADM--------------------
#-----------ADDED BY RAHUL MURMURIA------------------
title Linux
rootnoverify (hd0,2)
chainloader +1
#--------------------END-----------------------------

Thats all. So now we have a Dual boot ready.

Next up, setting up a good environment for working on a project like mine where gcc is a must. Also, it is long due that I report my progress on my porting project for GSoC. All this coming up shortly…