The Free Geek

Ramblings of a Free Software Geek

Move over Compiz, welcome Beryl Tue, 10 Oct 2006 14:19:48 +0530

Filed under: AIGLX,Free Software,Open Source Software,Ubuntu — Bon Goose @ 14:19:48

One of the coolest things about Free Software is that no one person can really control the direction of a project by dictatorship. While I agree that having a benevolent dictator has helped many projects like the Linux kernel and Python, sometimes the ability to fork a project proves to be a boon.

This is what has happened with Compiz and its friendly fork Beryl. The compiz community led by ace programmer Quinn Storm was doing an awesome job enhancing compiz and writing new plugins. They also wrote cgwd (later Emerald), a custom window decorator for GNOME based on the proof of concept gwd by David Raveman. But apparently David Raveman (author of Compiz & XGL) had some issues with accepting patches from Quinn and was not cooperating with the community. As a result, Beryl was born which is mainly Compiz + patches by Quinn Storm and the community.

I moved from Compiz to Beryl today and I was awestruck. Beryl seems to be way ahead of Compiz in terms of features (like Emerald) and sheer eye-candy. The beryl-manager application is an extremely useful and awesome little thingy. It simply rocks! Here is how you can switch from AIGLX + Compiz to AIGLX + Beryl on Dapper —

  1. Remove all compiz packages from your system but keep the aiglx packages.
  2. Remove all old compiz repositories from your /etc/apt/sources.list and add the following
    deb dapper main aiglx
  3. Do a apt-get update and then apt-get dist-upgrade.
  4. Install the meta-package beryl and you are done!
  5. Restart the X server and run beryl-manager. Enjoy the awesomeness.

With Beryl the previous issues with missing window borders are also gone. So you can do away with apt-pinning which I was doing to keep my AIGLX from breaking. More documentation is available at the Beryl project wiki.
You can watch the following movie on to get an idea about Beryl and its advantages over Compiz. Enjoy 🙂


Of women and Free Software Mon, 17 Jul 2006 16:40:05 +0530

Filed under: Free Software,GNU/Linux,Open Source Software,Rants — Bon Goose @ 16:40:05

I came back from Bangalore just today and saw an apparently interesting blog post by Vidya (aka Svaksha). She talks about the problems that women in FOSS face and goes on to explain the reasons why there aren’t many females in the FOSS world. While a post like this is very much welcome, what concerns me are her pre-concieved notions about the whole picture. I would like to adress them one by one —

  • How is being rude important or necessary? How actually do you define rudeness? Nobody supports a rude person, notwithstanding the gender or the project. I agree that sometimes newbies are flamed, but that’s mostly because of not reading the manuals or asking stupid questions. Nobody gets flamed on the basis of his/her gender.
  • How is “survival” an issue here? All Free Software projects are open to all and everybody can contribute to them. Either you contribute or you don’t. It all depends on how motivated you are. You need to remember that you are _not_ doing us any favour by contributing in a Free Software project. You do it to scratch your own itch. If your itch is bad enough, you will scratch it no matter how inaccessible / tough / hostile that itch is. Ditto with Free Software. It’s wrong to expect people to welcome you a red carpet just because you are female or come from a poor country. This is a level playing field after all.
  • About women being made moderators of the Ubuntu-IN list, what makes you think that just being a female gives anybody the right to moderate a list or admin a server? Do you think this kind of favourism or reservation really helps? What about a situation where patches by female kernel hackers are given preference over male kernel hackers? It will just result in a bad and buggy kernel. Not because I think females can’t code (of course they can), but because the very idea of having reservtaions in a Free Software project goes against the basic philosophy of Free Software. Admin access to a server or mailing list is not a right, it’s a privilege and it is given to only the senior or experienced members of the project as and when required. Nothing more or less. If I make an absolute newcomer an admin of a server just because she is a female, it will be rather a discrimination against more experienced people and I don’t think it will help the project in any way.
  • All the decisions taken in Ubuntu-IN were taken as a result of a consensus among all the members of the team. You didn’t care to participate in any way and just bombarded with impractical recommendations. We repeatedly asked you to provide feedback or participate but you preferred to lurk in those times and tried to blast us with false allegations instead. No we don’t discriminate against females, but we won’t give them any special treatement either. You have to earn all the respect and privileges by virtue of your work here and not your gender.
  • Mentoring women is important, but it’s in no way more important than mentoring equally new but interested men. I personally don’t believe that *-women groups serve any practical purpose as there are many men in those lists and the same people can’t behave differently in two separate lists. The problem they say, lies between the keyboard and the chair, and nothing else. It’s just a mental block among many females which is basically an hypothesis propounded by a handful feminist women. For example, not many women applied for the Google Summer of Code, but when GNOME Foundation announced the Women’s Summer Outreach Program, hundreds of women applied for that. Considering the fact that the WSOP had < 1% scholarships available, this little piece of statistic does suggest that the problem is actually somewhere else.

So Vidya, your assumptions are mostly wrong in this matter and I don’t know what you want to achieve by condemning all the men for their so-called rude behaviour and their discrimination against women. Instead of whining about the status quo and founding more foo-women groups why don’t you join the generic foo projects and try to change the situation? I am sure everybody here is ready to accept constructive criticisms. This is the best possible thing one can do to improve the situation, splitting projects merely to separate the women from the community is, if at all, a very bad solution. That is, in my very humble opinion.


The coffee now smells better Mon, 03 Jul 2006 20:09:15 +0530

Filed under: Free Software,General — Bon Goose @ 20:09:15

I went to our local Cafe Coffee Day after quite a few weeks last Saturday. Then I went inside the front-desk to change a few songs and the friendly waiter Amit told me something which had the word “Linux” in it. I ignored him completely and went on to the computer desk and noticed that there were two computers now instead of one. They are doing the billing on a new HP machine and the songs are being played from the old machine. I asked the manager the secret behind the new machine and he told me “They have now upgraded the software everywhere and it now runs on Linux”. I was extremely surprised. I couldn’t believe it, so I went on to check it out myself. And indeed, Ctrl+Alt+F1 told me that they are running some flavour of GNU/Linux. The actual Java application ran on the 2nd virtual terminal. It seems they have somehow locked down the system and it boots up to start the Java app by itself. Pretty nice actually. They also have some nifty things like a 802.11 based order taking device and also a bill printer.

I am sure this is a pretty big step towards total GNU/Linux domination. This bold step by Cafe Coffee Day will help in proving that GNU/Linux is indeed ready for the enterprise.

So guys, go ahead and enjoy your coffee in Cafe Coffee Day, and be assured that your bill is being processed by a system based on Free Software 🙂

Cafe Coffee Day Computerised Billing System The whole thing runs on GNU/Linux :)


The politics of the Free Software Revolution Sun, 11 Jun 2006 16:45:53 +0530

Filed under: Free Software — Bon Goose @ 16:45:53

Prof. Eben Moglen gave an incredible keynote address in the recently concluded Red Hat Summit in Nashville. His talk was all about thwarting the so-called notion that the politics of the Free Software revolution is somehow harmful for business and goes against the business ethics. He said that the Free Software movement is all about restoring the right to tinker and invent … not against any business, but at the same time it was “… in some fundamental sense directed against the interest that Microsoft projects'', though unintentionally. He also said that the whole idea that the politics of Free Software is undesirable was created by people like Microsoft, by spending a large amount of money taken from the users. In his whole speech he talked at length about the American inventive history and correlated past with the present in a great way. He explained how the very freedom to be somebody like Samuel Colt or Andrew Carnegie is being taken away from us. People no longer have the right to fix their own problems and thus improve the world by sharing their changes just because somebody has made it illegal to do so. Nobody in the whole world has the right to tinker or fix the problem except one company, which may or may not fix the problem depending on its own priorities.

He cited a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which says “Every revolution begins as an idea in one man's mind'' and then went on to correlate Ralph with Stallman, thought and action and the freedom to make and the freedom to profit. He explained how the Patent system in the USA was actually introduced to encourage inventors from all over the world to emigrate to the USA by granting them exclusive use for a limited period of time. He also talked about the French way of holding onto their technical expertise by compiling the most successful & influential encyclopaedia of all time — the Encyclopédie.

He succeeded in firmly establishing the fact that political freedom and inventive freedom are very closely related, as political freedom spurts the inventiveness in man and allows him to grow. He affirmed that politics are as natural to us as the apple pie or the elections … there is no point in pushing it over to the side and needs to be accepted as an important part of the society.

He then talked about how we can protect our freedom by creating licenses like the GPL which restrict people in minimal ways to protect our freedom — a way of allowing ordered liberty to the people. He also talked briefly about the upcoming GPLv3 and explained how it will tackle the Software Patent system and DRM.

Lastly, he urged everybody to help in protecting our freedom and explaining the value of freedom to the people.

It was a really influential speech and I am sure everybody who has seen the video or been there at the Red Hat Summit would agree. It's a must watch for everybody who understands or wants to understand the Free Software philosophy and its importance in the society.

Prof. Eben Moglen


Elephants Dream — A very nice watch Tue, 06 Jun 2006 14:46:37 +0530

Filed under: Creative Commons,Free Software,General,Open Source Software — Bon Goose @ 14:46:37

I downloaded and watched Elephants Dream yesterday. The animation, sound and visual effects are simply awesome. It's amazing to see what can be achieved with Blender, The GIMP and other Free Software tools. The movie is of professional quality and the actors are good too. The downside is of course the story-line. The story though innovative, seemed to have ended quite abruptly.

But let's look at the positive sides. The movie was created with a sole purpose of showing to the world the capabilities of Free Software tools in general and Blender in particular. And they have achieved their goal surely. Also, all the production files of the whole film plus the soundtrack have been released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license which is simply incredible. Everybody in this world is allowed to use any part of the movie to create a derived work. So it's only a matter of time when somebody will create a newer and probably a better version of the movie and will release it to the world. I am also hoping that more movies like this one are released in the future.

Elephants Dream


A first look at ayttm Fri, 25 Nov 2005 19:35:08 +0530

Filed under: Free Software,GNU/Linux,Open Source Software,Programming — Bon Goose @ 19:35:08

I have never used ayttm myself, but I know Philip S. Tellis, its primary author quite well. It appears that the project is in a great need of active developers as Philip is quite busy with his work and others are I guess absconding. For those who don't know what ayttm is, it's a multi-protocol and cross platform messaging client, a bit like GAIM. ayttm is quite novel in its own right as it seems to support Yahoo! Messenger webcams, though I haven't tested it myself. There are a few nagging issues wrt ayttm at the moment like the GUI is still using GTk+ 1.x while the whole world has moved to GTk+ 2.6.x upwards. So I thought it was worthwhile to check it out and see if I could help in some way. I checked out the source from the CVS repo and tried building it. And I hit a bug straightaway. There was this small bug which would cause an error when compiled with gcc 4.x. So I whipped up a small patch to fix it and submitted it to the list. And no, it was not a one-liner (it was a two-liner ;)). I just checked that the patch was committed by Philip. Cool! I guess I have to devote some time hacking ayttm after my freakin' exams are over. And yes, if you are a C programmer, and want to contribute to Free Software, ayytm needs you. Join the lists today!