Thursday, March 29, 2007


A strange floppy problem

I have two machines here, both exlusively running Debian
Gnu/linux. Multiboot is between various versions of the gnu/linux
kernel. (yes, I know that kernel is not a part of the GNU project, but
GNUS does not allow me to utter the name of the kernel in isolation -
that is a bug which I am going to report).

The problem - floppies do not work on both machines.

Both machines read, files show up, no file is truncated, dosfstools
and dosfsck / fsck.vfat does not report any problem, but copying /
reading files from the floppies is always giving me problems. The cp
command says there are problems reading the files, and fails.
ometimes, I can use the media after running dosfsck.

This is not likely a hardware problem, because occassionally, the same
floppy in the same drive can be read /written to without any problem.

But the same media / floppies read all time in other machines (the
ones running any OS from Microsoft).


Monday, March 26, 2007


Gnokii and Samsung mobile

I got a DSU 7 cable for my basic Samsung SGH - X 160, and found that
xgnokii can communicate with it. The port has to be set to ``ttyUSB0''
and model is ``AT'' in $HOME/.gnokiirc.

gnokii can read SMSes and the phone address book. Have not tried other
things yet. Command line gnokii fails most other options, so I guess
I may not be able to set the wallpaper and other tricks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Free Software

Conflict of Interest in the Free Software Community

Conflict of interest is a rather simple concept. It happens when your decisions in one capacity is influenced by your interests in a different capacity.

Suppose you are the secretary of your apartment's owners' society, and in your day job, you work as the marketing manager of a paint manufacturer. You have a conflict of interest when your society is discussing which manufacturer's paint is to be purchased for next year's maintenance; and your employer (and at least one other competitor) makes the same quality of paint.

Another example situation is like this - you are the owner of a restaurant; and also a committee member of the restaurant owners' association. You come to know that a particular organisation is looking out for prospective restaurant owners to operate the cafeteria for its employees. What happens when you approach the prospect introducing yourselves as a representative of the restaurant owners' association, make a proposal on behalf of the restaurant owners' association, and then go on to enter into the final contract with that prospect in your personal capacity?

You have just misused your position of trust, in which you were placed in your capacity as office bearer of the restaurant owners' association.

It makes no difference if you did this in your capacity as the officer of your employer; or if instead of the restaurant owners' association, it was a charitable society; even if it is permitted to enter business contracts.

When people indulge in such acts, not only are they doing something unethical, they are also bringing a bad name to entire community they are part of. The problem is not merely occupying posts carrying conflicting roles; but exercise of you position in both organisations / capacities for gain of one organisation and such exercise of your power and/or capacity being detrimental to the interests of the other organisation.

People in all walks of life are placed in such situations; but in certain situations, the law forbids people having conflict of interest from occupying certain offices.

And I am saying this here because I have come across certain people in the free software community occupying such positions of conflict and using their positions in community organisations for obtaining business for their personal organisations.

This conflict of interest has severely impaired progress of the free software movement in India. More than one person I have come into contract has asked me ``why is organisation X so ineffective in its stated objectives?'' and almost, as if answering their own questions, pointing out the organisations involved.

I hope the people concerned realise that they are being watched by the community.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


A survey

Which is the best archrivalry of them all? This is today's Slashdot
poll. See

Emacs v. VI leads with 26% votes.

Pirates v. ninjas is not very far back, with 25%.

The rest are far.... far.... behind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007



What I want from Dell

Dell's attempts to woo the Free Software community have been astounding, and they are now running a survey on what they should prioritise on.

For one a good start, Dell asked the community, instead of asking a consultant to do this. But, the ``hangover'' of proprietary days is still there, even in the survey. I think Dell does not understand the difference between a kernel and an operating system.

Saying that about a leading manufacturer of hardware sounds far-fetched, but some of the questions on the survey - like ``Which language should we prioritise on?'' just demonstrates it.

For me, all Dell needs to do is simply to ensure that every part of their hardware - the video card, sound cards, Lan cards, MMC/SD card slots, WiFi/BLueTooth / InfraRed / Firewire ports, Modems, web cams, finger print readers, etc are supported in the Kernel.

The prohibition against changing partitions is another problem with Dell's, (and almost all other laptop manufacturers) warranty terms. Dell should ensure that users have the freedom to partition disks and install the distro of their choice. If the users do not know how to do this, they wont do it, and Dell need not enforce ignorance through a warranty nullification clause.

And if users know how to do this, they will not bother Dell with support calls about such issues.

One problem Dell may have to face is in the application software arena. People will keep on asking ``how do I use the thumb drive'', ``why is my digital camera not working'' etc., and Dell should have (preferably more than one) mailing list and / or some web based fora devoted to answer such questions.

For all this, Dell need not have huge support team to deal with customer queries / support requests; all it will need is a team of core developers who will integrate drivers and software specific to Dell hardware into the Kernel; and a few knowledgeable people who will do the support thorough e-mail /web fora.

It certainly will help if Dell does install a basic distro while shipping their systems with working X and a GUI desktop (GNOME/KDE/ICEWM - I do not care); and all the device drivers and user interface software for the hardware, but Dell should not invalidate the warranty if the user reinstalls another distro.

And yes, like HP, Dell should hire a few Free Software hackers.

What will Dell get in return for all its efforts?

I do not know about you, but if they get their act together within a reasonable time (say 3 months), and make it available in India, I may choose a Dell notebook / laptop. Here is what I am looking for - 1 GB Ram, 120GB (or more) Sata HDD, a 64 bit processor, Wifi/bluetooth/IR port, SD/MMC card reader, integrated webcam and speaker, 15 inch monitor, 4hr + battery backup; and, yes - GNU/Linux compatibility.

But, if the drivers are not there in Debian's Main section, or Fedora (which means, binary drivers will not do), I am not going to touch the systems with a barge pole.

Saturday, March 10, 2007



``... and any future version.''

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

People looking at source code of software under the GNU GPL will have come across the above text very frequently. Most other software licenses also contain such phraseology.

Several people, including so called legal experts have been quick to ask -- how can software be licensed under a license which does not exist?

I am attempting to answer this enigma here.

First, let us have a look the dictionary meaning of the term ``license''. Here is one from WordNet.

  license       n 1: a legal document giving official permission to do something            [syn: {licence}, {permit}]       2: freedom to deviate deliberately from normally applicable          rules or practices (especially in behavior or speech)          [syn: {licence}]       3: excessive freedom; lack of due restraint; "when liberty          becomes license dictatorship is near"- Will Durant; "the          intolerable license with which the newspapers break...the          rules of decorum"- Edmund Burke [syn: {licence}]       4: the act of giving a formal (usually written) authorization          [syn: {permission}, {permit}]       v : authorize officially; "I am licensed to practice law in this           state" [syn: {licence}, {certify}] [ant: {decertify}]     

I could write a few megabytes worth of (plain) text about the term ``license'' as it is used in copyright law; but for our purpose, it would be sufficient to note that sense 1 above is a good definition; and for Copyleft licenses, both 1 and 2 will hold true.

Thus, when you license software, what you get are certain permissions and those permissions are different from what you would get under the copyright law if you owned that copy.

In a copyleft Free Software license like the GNU GPL, what you get is freedom from the restrictions imposed on you by the copyright law, and the terms on which you get the freedom are specified in the license. When this license says that you have the option of using a future version of this license, it means that you can choose whether to use the software under the yet-to-be-released license. Of course, you can make choice only when the next version of the license is released. Obviously, if the next version is not to your liking, you opt not to use the updated version of the license.

There is absolutely no reason why a court of law will not accept this proposition. It should be remembered that the terms of the license grant do not change unilaterally. The grantor (copyright holder) has to choose to issue the subsequent version of the license. Once the new version of the license is in place a user can decide whether the terms of new license are beneficial to him or not.

After all, copyleft is for protecting the user.

This situation is more similar to buying something on credit and the seller says ``you can choose to pay me the price prevailing on the day you repay me''. The crucial term is ``you can choose''. If the buyer finds that the price of the goods is higher at the time he chooses to pay, he can choose to pay the price prevailing at the time of sale, or if the current price is lesser, the buyer can choose to pay the current price.


Me?? Nerd??

Me?? Nerd??

This is what they say:--

Overall, you scored as follows:

10% scored higher (more nerdy),

0% scored the same, and

90% scored lower (less nerdy).

What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:

Supreme Nerd. Apply for a professorship at MIT now!!!.

And gave me this pic:-
I am nerdier than 90% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!


Thursday, March 08, 2007



അത് എഷ്യാനെറ്റ് സംപ്രേക്ഷണം ചെയ്യുന്നുണ്ട്.

യാഹൂ - വെബ്ബ് ദുനിയാ കൂട്ടു ബ്ലോഗ് മോഷണത്തെകുറിച്ച് ഈ പാവത്താനുമായുള്ള കൂടികാഴ്ച ഏഷ്യാനെറ്റ് ന്യൂസ് സംപ്രേക്ഷണം ചെയ്യുന്നുണ്ട്. ഇത് എഴുതുംമ്പോള്] വാര്]ത്ത രണ്ടു പ്രാവശ്യം കാണിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്.

ഇത് എഴുതുന്നത് ൨൦൦൭ മാര്ച്ച് മാസം ൮നു സന്ദധ്യ ൮മണി ൪൫ മിനിറ്റ്. .

Sunday, March 04, 2007


What next in Malayalam Computing

What next in Malayalam computing?

Now that a significant amount of progress has been made on encoding standards issues, time is now ripe for anybody interested in Malayalam language deployment to think about what else is required to enable impeccable support for Malayalam.

Here is my take, in no particular order of preference:-

Thankfully, some of the more fundamental work - like locale definitions and collation orders -- have been done for us by the Swatantra Malayalam Computing, a project by FSF India.

And unfortunately, the FSF-I project was a sponsored project, (with funds coming from Government of India) and once the funds ran out, the project got orphaned. It took the enthusiasm and hard work of one group of people to get things going.

Personally, I do not want my contributions to increase the currently available mass of non-standard Malayalam data. I guess my stand is vindicated by the infrequent posts in the Unicode's Indic mailing list, stating things like "plenty of Malayalam is already out there on the web, what is wrong with that, and fixing problems with the standards will render that data bad etc.?"

While expressing my thanks to that group (Praveen, Anivar Aravind, etc) for their contributions, for the rest of you out there - please see the list above - feel free to add to it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Changing settings

Dear Readers, I am afraid I have to change the settings of this blog. While anonymous and unmoderated comments are welcome, obscenity and name calling is not; and I have noticed two such comments. Reluctantly, I am changing the settings to disallow anonymous posts. This will be a temporary change, and I hope to be able to change the settings back as soon as possible.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]