The Free Geek

Ramblings of a Free Software Geek

GNU Emacs with XFT goodness Mon, 06 Nov 2006 17:56:48 +0530

Filed under: GNU/Linux,Programming,Ubuntu — Bon Goose @ 17:56:48

Personally I have been using the emacs-unicode-2 CVS branch of GNU Emacs for a long time now. This branch will become Emacs 23 in the future and it contains better Unicode handling code in addition to some cool features like antialiased fonts (courtesy XFT and FreeType), copy to clipboard, etc.

GNU Emacs with XFT

I usually build a custom version of the emacs-snapshot package with source from the emacs-unicode-2 branch and some simple customisation to enable the antialiased fonts. Some of my friends are using those packages and I thought it’d be good if share those packages with a larger audience.

So I have set up an APT repository with those packages which you can install on your Ubuntu Dapper machine. To do that, first add the following line to your /etc/apt/sources.list

deb dapper main
deb-src dapper main # for source

Then do sudo apt-get update to fetch the package list and then sudo apt-get install emacs-snapshot-gtk to install the customised GNU Emacs package.

If you already have the vanilla emacs-snapshot installed then only sudo apt-get upgrade will upgrade your current installation to the new one. And yes, this package can co-exist peacefully with your emacs21 package.

Now to enable antialiased fonts, add the following line to your ~/.emacs

(set-default-font "Bitstream Vera Sans Mono-8")

Now launch GNU Emacs as emacs-snapshot-gtk --enable-font-backend and enjoy the awesomeness 🙂

Leave a comment if any of you need Ubuntu Edgy packages, I will build them and add to the repository.

Update: I have added Edgy packages too ! Just add the following lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list and the rest is identical to the instructions for Dapper.

deb edgy main
deb-src edgy main # for source


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 🙂


Honey, I screwed up your laptop! Thu, 10 Aug 2006 09:01:48 +0530

Filed under: GNU/Linux,Hardware,Life,Ubuntu — Bon Goose @ 09:01:48

Something very odd happened just now. I noticed that Dapper was unable to keep correct time on the BIOS and was basically hit by bug #43661 which is OK compared to what happened next. I just went to the BIOS settings and fixed the time, and now it doesn’t boot at all! So what now? Oh well, it’s bug #43745 at work here 🙂

My options, either send the laptop back to Dell, or take out the BIOS cell to reset it. I will try the latter now, as sending the laptop back to Dell might be quite a PITA and I need this laptop now.

/me off to taking the laptop apart, wish me luck!

N.B – Somebody else had the exact same problem as me …

P.S – The actual owner of the laptop sounded very calm over the phone, either she didn’t understand the issue or she has too much confidence on my mad hardware skillz 😉

Update: I fixed the damn issue, w00t! I took apart the whole laptop only to realise that the BIOS battery is just under the keyboard, hehe. The XPS is a true engineering marvel, extremely tiny parts everywhere, so better send it back to Dell if you are not experienced enough in taking things apart and putting them back in. One tip to Dell users, stay away from the rtc kernel driver, in fact, better blacklist that bugger.


Started working on the Design Tue, 06 Jun 2006 02:58:15 +0530

Filed under: Python,SoC,Ubuntu — Bon Goose @ 02:58:15

After a prolonged sickness, I am back to work again. Started working on the design specs of the offline update tool today. It's still incomplete, but I am just putting up my ideas of implementation on the doc. Talked to Mario Danic about the design doc. He also approved my specification in the Launchpad Blueprint system.

I was quite relieved to know that python-apt is quite usable and it works fine (though not being very pythonic in nature). I read somewhere that it's not very actively maintained now-a-days and lacks a lot of features. That info relieved me quite a lot, otherwise my whole app would have become jeopardised 🙂

There are people who are also requesting me to port the tool to Windows. Well, Python code is easily portable but hey, Windows has no APT library 🙂 Thankfully Mario is writing a tool for Windows which does a similar job, so may be I will be able to borrow some ideas from him.

I also need to check if my bank accepts cheques in Indian Rupees but drawn in the USA. As I have heard, they may claim that such cheques are impossible … heh, they have no idea about Google!

Anyway, I need to sleep off now. I must finish the design doc by tomorrow.