Inspirated

 
 

May 20, 2009

The wonders of modern marketing — get paid $100 for telling time

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 4:57 am

A couple of days back, I had to buy a laptop for my dad. Now, deciding one for him was infinitely easier than doing so for myself since the obsession with smaller screens wasn’t playing any role here. In fact, what he ended up liking was a 15.6″ behemoth which, upon comparison, could easily swallow my 12.1″ and 8″ notebooks and still have space left for my cellphone.

The purchase was made at eXtra. Before my dad finalized it though, the salesman asked me if I would like to have the laptop setup with “original Windows Vista, original Anti-Virus software with all the updates, original office and configured with all the drivers for SR 365 only”.

This immediately raised a few points in my head:

  • Dad happens to be as much of a computer guy as I am an electronics’ (although I have some extra credentials, such as scoring a hat-trick of flunking performances at the university in a single course related to electronics). I really didn’t want him to be bothered with all the “Windows Genuine Advantage” pile of crap later on.
  • I would be saved the trouble of downloading, installing, cracking, patching and updating a “clean” Windows installation — regardless of the fact that I find it quite amusing whenever someone refers to a Windows installation as “clean”.
  • Around $100 would be a good bargain considering retail prices of all the softwares mentioned.

Then, a few counter-points:

  • Until that moment, I had been totally oblivious to Compaq laptops coming without having any pre-installed operating system. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I myself had settled for an OS-less Fujitsu-Siemens notebook few years ago, which gave me very handsome physical as well as technical specs for the cash I spent. Back then, I was also pleasantly surprised when my Linux From Scratch system got migrated to the new machine using only bash, netcat and tar; making it usable on the very day of notebook’s acquisition.
  • I harbor a particular distrust for salesmen who speak too fast.

The counter-points outweighed the originals, and I decided to go with an empty laptop. Got home, downloaded and burned a cracked copy of XP SP3, only to find out that the laptop wasn’t empty at all. It already had a working Vista & Co. on it which only required setting up the initial time and localization settings. Immediately, I recalled other unsuspecting customers at the counter who did pay the extra charges for getting their laptops “ready”.

Fortunately for my dad, my time-telling prowess wasn’t as valuable as the salesman’s so I didn’t ask him $100 for it. Unfortunately, he’ll now have to cope with Vista.

“Windows: Microsoft’s tax on computing neophytes.”

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May 1, 2009

The mindbogglingly low shutdown time of Windows 7

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 10:10 am

This is it. Windows 7 has hit the nail right on its head. While going through BBC’s utterly crap article hyping the new Release Candidate, I spotted this absolute gold of a quote:

Many beta testers of Windows 7 have reported that it is faster than Vista, especially in terms of start-up and shutdown sequence of the computer.

Mr Curran said that the Microsoft Windows team had been poring over every aspect of the operating system to make improvements.

“We were able to shave 400 milliseconds off the shutdown time by slightly trimming the WAV file shutdown music.”

“It’s indicative of really the level and detail and scrutiny on Windows 7.”

No other operating system in the world can have claims over this ground-breaking innovation for reducing shutdown times. I mean, it took more than a decade of research and real-world feedback for Microsoft to finally declare that chopping shutdown music will reduce the — gasp! — shutdown time as well. Who knows, maybe Windows 8 will blow everyone out of the water by discarding each and every sound found in the previous versions. We’re living in a wonderful age of technological revolution.

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March 15, 2009

HOWTO: Use USB devices in Virtual Machine Manager with QEMU

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 3:09 pm

Every once a while, I need to take the backup of my Nokia N72 using PC Suite. Since the task had to be performed on Windows, I expected my virtualized machine to be able to do so. Unfortunately, Virtual Machine Manager does not provide any option in its interface which would allow me to use my USB devices in virtualized machines. Going through the documentation though, here’s the method through which I was able to solve my issue.

First of all, you should have the vendor and product ID’s of the USB device you want to use. Sounds alien? Use the command:

[user@host ~]$ lsusb

Which will show you something like:

Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
Bus 005 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 004 Device 002: ID 0a12:0001 Cambridge Silicon Radio, Ltd Bluetooth Dongle (HCI mode)
Bus 004 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 003 Device 003: ID 0421:04c4 Nokia Mobile Phones
Bus 003 Device 002: ID 09da:000a A4 Tech Co., Ltd Port Mouse
Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub

The bold numbers in the line containing “Nokia Mobile Phones” are the vendor and product IDs respectively. Once you’ve noted them down for your required device (in my case: 0x421 and 0x4c4), list the virtual machines’ configuration files:

[user@host ~]$ sudo ls /etc/libvirt/qemu

networks windoze.xml

My virtual machine was named “windoze”, so windoze.xml is the file that I need to edit:

[user@host ~]$ sudo gedit /etc/libvirt/qemu/windoze.xml

In the editor, add the highlighted hostdev lines under the devices section (replacing the vendor and product IDs with the ones noted down from lsusb output):

<devices>
<emulator>/usr/bin/qemu-kvm</emulator>
<hostdev mode='subsystem' type='usb'>
<source>
<vendor id='0x0421' />
<product id='0x04c4' />
</source>
</hostdev>

Save and close the file. Restart the service:

[user@host ~]$ sudo service libvirtd restart

If everything went smoothly, the USB device should now be accessible from within the virtual machine:

Screenshot of Nokia PC Suite connected to a USB device in virtualized Windows
(Click on the thumbnail for larger version.)

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March 9, 2009

HOWTO: Access Windows machines by their names on Eee PC

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 8:25 pm

More often than not, Linux users will end up in a situation where they’d need to access their Windows neighbors on LAN. This can easily be accomplished using IP addresses, but using NetBIOS names is just too convenient to be overlooked.

The Xandros distro on Asus’ Eee PC does not resolve NetBIOS names by default. To make it perform that, you can do the following:

[user@host ~]$ sudo apt-get install samba samba-common smbclient winbind
[user@host ~]$ sudo kwrite /etc/nsswitch.conf

Once the editor opens, spot the line:

hosts: files dns

And append “wins” at its end, making it:

hosts: files dns wins

Save the file, exit the text-editor, back on command-line:

[user@host ~]$ sudo /etc/init.d/samba start
[user@host ~]$ sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

Reconnect your network, and viola — easy peasy, Eee PC!

Screenshot of Eee PC accessing a Windows PC on LAN by name
(Click on the thumbnail for larger version.)

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April 29, 2007

Video: Windows 95, 98, 2000 and XP simultaneously running virtualized on Linux

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 2:04 am

The idea of visualizing the history of Microsoft on four sides of a desktop cube does sound enthralling no matter how much you despise the company’s products. That’s precisely the reason why I spent a whole night trying to configure four different operating systems to run virtualized on QEMU/KVM with networking and multimedia capabilities. The results look good, especially when you have a compositing window manager to extrapolate their effects.

Download the podcast (MP4)

Video screenshot #1 Video screenshot #2
Video screenshots

Hardware Information

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo 6300 @ 1.86GHz
Motherboard Intel DG965RY
RAM 512 MB

Software Information

Host Operating System Linux From Scratch
Host Kernel Linux 2.6.21
Host Virtualization Setup QEMU 0.9.0/KVM-20
Desktop Environment Beryl 0.2.0/Xfce 4.4.1

Note: Windows 98 and 95 don’t like KVM at all, so I had to run their respective virtual machines with the -no-kvm switch.

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April 20, 2007

Link: A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 3:27 pm

I was just reading through this article about Windows Vista’s cost analysis when I realized that Vista is intensive on hardware resources not only because of the new eye-candy features, but also because of various absurd DRM technologies which force data to flow through encryption routines before the user has access to it. Anyone thinking of buying Vista or hardware for running it should read the article. It’s long but really comprehensive about Microsoft’s obvious plans to cripple its users’ freedom.

(I’ve been unable to post actively in my blog for a while because of my mid-term exams. Hopefully, I’ll get back to writing new material before Wednesday.)

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April 16, 2007

Link: Avoid the Vista badge, it means DRM inside

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 11:38 pm

I just came across this article on Inquirer about how Windows Vista spells DRM, and why DRM is inherent evil. The author raises some pretty solid points, so be sure to check it out.

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April 6, 2007

Customer sues Microsoft for misleading Vista labels

Filed under: Blog — admin @ 9:41 pm

I’ve just spotted this amusing story about a woman who is suing Microsoft for misleading ‘Windows Vista Capable’ labels on new PCs. According to Dianne Kelley, Microsoft has been promoting Vista as an easy-to-migrate option but the premium (see 1337) versions of the OS don’t exactly turn out to be as light on machines as they’re marketed to be.

An excerpt from what Microsoft had to say:

“We have different versions, and they do offer different features. … The Windows (Vista) core experience is a huge advance over Windows XP, we believe, and provides some great features, particularly in the area of security and reliability, and just general ease of use.”

They’re mostly right, with the slight inaccuracy in their statement being the fact that the ‘core experience’ of Vista has more to do with incompatible drivers/applications and slow file handling than security and reliability.

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