Monday, May 21, 2007

Bootsplash in openSUSE

openSUSE has one of the most gorgeous looking bootsplash than most other Linux distros out there. In all my previous installs of openSUSE, for some mysterious reason, the bootsplash never showed up during boot. This was mainly due to the fact that the screen resolution for the splash was not set properly during install. In Yast2, the bootloader module does not give you options to choose the appropriate resolution from, as can be seen below.

You have to manually enter the corresponding code for your screen resolution. In my case, it was 794. Remember that bootsplash currently works only up to 16bit. If bootsplash still does not work, choose a lesser resolution and see if it works. To get the appropriate vga mode for your screen resolution, refer the table below:

Screen Size 640x480 800x600 1024x768 1280x1024

256 (8 bit)
769 771 773 775
32000 (15 bit)
784 787 790 793
65000 (16 bit)
785 788 791 794
16.7M (24 bit)
786 789 792 795

Note: If the above does not work, also try running additionally with root permissions
mkinitrd -s screen_size

where 'screen_size' will be 1280x1024 for an LCD monitor with 1280x1024 as the maximum screen resolution.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

How to install Internet Explorer in Linux

Although using Firefox is preferable than using IE, sometimes you really require IE to open a page which is IE only. This can be problematic especially if you are running Linux. Also, if you are a web developer and using Linux, installing IE can prove to be be useful.

Internet Explorer can be used in Linux using Wine. Wine can be easily obtained on any Linux distribution easily using the appropriate repository or it may even come pre-installed. But the difficult part is to get IE installed and working properly. To get the latest wine package for openSUSE 10.2, just add this repo as a source to Yast2 and then install wine.

Next, to install IE, use IEs4Linux. This provides a very convenient way to install IE and automatically downloads all required components. It also provides you with an icon on the desktop for launching IE. I have found it to be bug-free and the installed IE has worked flawlessly till now. Although you should be aware that the installed IE is as insecure as actual IE itself and so you would be better off using Firefox and use IE only when absolutely required.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

How to change MAC address in openSUSE 10.2

Yast2 is a great tool in openSUSE for configuring all your network settings but one thing it lacks is the option to change the MAC address of the network card. This option is available in Windows so I see no reason why it should not be available in Yast.

Luckily, there is an alternate way to change your MAC address. I am assuming that you would want to change the MAC address on every boot. Otherwise 'ifconfig' is always available to change the MAC address.

To change the MAC address automatically on every boot, just create a file named 'rclocal' in /etc/init.d folder. Enter the following in this file:

#! /bin/sh

## This script simulates redhat's rc.local (Add commands at the end)

# Provides: rclocal
# Required-Start: $local_fs $remote_fs $network
# X-UnitedLinux-Should-Start: $ALL
# Required-Stop:
# X-UnitedLinux-Should-Stop:
# Default-Start: 3 5
# Default-Stop: 0 1 2 6
# Short-Description: Simulates rc.local
# Description: Simulates redhat's rc.local: contains
# commands to execute after system has booted (all services are already
# available)

## Execute ony when service is started
case "$1" in
## commands will be executed
exit 0

# vvvvv Add your commands bellow this line vvvvv
/sbin/ifconfig eth0 hw ether 'Your New MAC address here'

Enter the MAC address that you want in the last line. After this, open up Yast2 and goto System-> System Services (Runlevel). In the list of services, select rclocal and enable it.

Save the changes. Reboot your computer. On reboot, the MAC address of your network card should now have been changed to the new one.

Note that this file can also be used like redhat's rc.local and so you can also add other stuff here.

Hope this has been useful! Please let me know if I have written anything incorrectly. Bye!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Yay! I finally got lirc working...

I have a Pinnacle PCTV Stereo card that comes along with a remote which I finally got working today. So here's what I did to get it working on my distro, openSUSE 10.2:
  • install lirc and lirc-kmp-default using Yast2.
  • changed entries 'LIRCD_DEV_PERMISSIONS="666"', 'LIRCD_DRIVER=pinsys' and 'LIRCD_DEVICE=/dev/ttyS0' (for receiver connected to COM1) in /etc/sysconfig/lirc file.
  • used 'irrecord' command to create a config file for the remote and copied it over to /etc/lircd.conf. (You can also use the provided config file for Pinnacle remote in remotes directory of lirc source.)
  • Got lirc to start as service on boot using Yast2 (System->System Services).
  • Started irkick and configured modes and events as per my convenience.
If you want irkick to start automatically on login, just start irkick once and exit from it using the pop-up menu from the irkick panel icon. At this time irkick will ask if you want it to start automatically on login. Select your choice at this time.

One can use control tvtime using irkick by using the command 'tvtime-command'. See it's man page for the available control options. Use the 'Kde Program Launcher' option available when you are assigning a new function to the remote control button. For starting tvtime initially, just use the Kde Program Launcher to start 'tvtime' command.

Now that I have lirc setup properly, I can control both tvtime and amarok using my remote. This is great! Also, using DCOP, I can shut down my computer using the remote.

I still haven't found out how to simulate a keyboard key event so that I can browse through the kmenu. If anyone knows about this, please tell me. Cheers!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

New KDE 4 games

There are 2 new games to be included in KDE 4.0 - KSquares, a KDE implementation of the paper "squares" game and Kiriki, a Tali dice game. But around 10 games wont be making it because there is no maintainer to work for the transition from kde 3 to kde 4.
  • Atlantik
  • KFouleggs
  • Klickety
  • KPoker
  • Kenolaba
  • KAsteroids
  • KSnake
  • KSokoban
  • KJumpingcube
  • KTron
So, if any of your favorite games are listed above, join the kdegames-devel mailing list and volunteer to help your game to be included in KDE 4.1. I myself would really like KTron and Ksnake to be ported.

Oh, by the way, the ported games look really polished and beautiful. For more information, refer this announcement or the kdegames module release co-ordinator's blog here.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Preview of new KDE4!

Saw some great videos of KDE4 on youtube today. You can watch them below. I wonder if this means the end of compiz and beryl as we know it. Regardless, just can't wait for kde 4 to be released. It's gonna be great! Gnome developers better do something to keep up.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Even Bender hates Windows... lol

I just saw an episode of Futurama today where Bender makes a hilarious joke about Windows. Check it out!

See? Even machines hate running Windows...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ntfs read/write on openSUSE with ntfs-3g!

Ntfs-3g has reached 1.0 and this means that you can now safely write on your Windows ntfs partitions!

To install ntfs-3g for openSUSE, you need to add this repository as source to Yast. Just install ntfs-3g and fuse from the repo.

Also change the type from ntfs to ntfs-3g in your /etc/fstab file for the ntfs partitions. Remember to remove the 'ro' (read only) option from the fstab entries for the ntfs partitions. Reboot and your ntfs partitions will now be writable!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Installing SUSE without CD

Like many linux distros, openSUSE has a fast release cycle of about 6-9 months. Burning 5 CDs for the distribution or a DVD every time a new version is released, wastes a lot of CDs and DVDs. It's also bad for the environment.

There is an alternate method to install openSUSE using a DVD iso image only, without burning it to CD/DVD. Also if your PC does not, for some reason, boot from CD/DVD this method can be useful. An existing Windows FAT32 partition from a dual-boot setup has been used here. Also, I am assuming that you have grub as the boot-loader and have an existing Linux distribution, preferably SUSE, installed.
  • First, download the latest openSUSE Goldmaster DVD iso image on a FAT32 partition. You can do that from here.
  • Next unpack the iso image contents into a folder on the partition and name that folder 'openSUSE'. This folder should be created in the root of the FAT32 partition.
  • Next, in the openSUSE folder, go into boot -> i386 -> loader. From this folder you will need to pick up two files - linux and initrd. Copy these somewhere and rename then as 'suselinux' and 'suseinitrd' respectively. Move them over to /boot folder of your Linux partition or whichever partition you have the bootloader installed.
  • Next, in /boot/grub/menu.lst file of your Linux partition, add an entry with the title as 'Install openSUSE' and the lines specifying kernel and initrd to 'kernel /boot/suselinux' and 'initrd /boot/suseinitrd'. The entry for 'root' should be the same as that for your existing Linux distro entry in the file. The new entry should look something like this:
title Install openSUSE
root (hd0,1) ---> change to whatever is appropriate for your system
kernel /boot/suselinux
initrd /boot/suseinitrd

Sometimes in some distros, it is not necessary to specify '/boot' in the entries. So look out for the syntax in the other similar entries in the file. Save the file.
  • Find out the name for the FAT32 partition where you unpacked the DVD iso (it will be something like hda1, hda5, hdb1 etc). Restart your computer.
  • In the grub menu, select 'Install openSUSE'. The installation of openSUSE should start now.
  • The installer will ask you to insert CD1 as the first step of the installation. Select OK without inserting any CD.
  • Next select the language and the keyboard layout. The installation should now show you a list of options to select from. In the middle, there will be an option 'Start installation or System'. Select it and then select 'Start installation or Update'.
  • Then, the installer will give a list of methods which you can use for installation. Select the hard disk option here.
  • Next the installer will show a list a partitions from which you can choose. Choose the entry corresponding to the FAT32 partition.
  • Then the installer will ask for the installation directory on the partition. Enter 'openSUSE' as the directory name. It should now detect the installation directory and begin loading Yast2 and the graphical installation should start as normal.
  • During this installation, make sure that you do not enter the mount point for the FAT32 partition as the installation fails later. Be very very careful here. You can set the mount point later after openSUSE has been installed. Also, do not set the FAT32 partition to be formatted during installation.

The installation should complete normally now and you should have a brand new openSUSE distro installed and all without burning any CDs/DVD. The unpacked DVD folder is not required after the installation and you can safely delete it. Also, you can copy the DVD iso over to the linux partition and set it as an installation source in Yast2.

If you have less than 512MB ram, you might face some problems like the installer asking to activate a swap partition or even refusing to start giving a 'no catalogue found' error. Hence, it would be better if you have at least 512MB of ram in order to install without major hassles.

The above method is the one which I generally use to upgrade my SUSE installations. For more detailed information and other methods of installation without CD, refer this page.

Keeping your PC secure and malware free

Windows is the most dominant OS in the market today. But it is definitely not very secure. Windows has a history of critical security flaws which can virtually take full control over any PC running Windows. But there are a few simple steps that you can follow to make sure that your PC does not get infected. Here's a list -

1. Windows XP SP2.

Install Windows XP Service Pack 2 if you haven't done so already. It usually should have been already installed on your PC unless you have disabled automatic updates feature of XP. It contains many fixes for Windows vulnerabilities and most importantly, it activates the in-built firewall of XP.

2. Use a good Anti-Virus.

There are a number of anti-viruses available for Windows XP. Some of the popular ones include Norton, Mcafee, Nod32, Kaspersky, Trend Micro etc. If you have an old computer, I would recommend getting Nod32 as it uses very less memory and is also very fast. Do not use Windows Onecare. Most anti-viruses are not free but some like AVG are completely free and offer a decent level of protection against viruses.

3. Use a good Personal Firewall.

Although Windows firewall offers a decent level of protection, you would be better off it you use a good commercial firewall especially if you run a server on your PC. There are many firewalls available. I personally use ZoneAlarm as a firewall. I found it to be quite efficient, non-intrusive and also, it's completely free!

4. Use a good Anti-spyware.

What's the difference between virus and spyware? Well roughly, a virus tries to delete important system files and personal files on your computer causing serious problems for which you might have to reinstall Windows. But spyware installs itself on your computer to track your browsing habits and installs malicious adware and spyware on your PC and it does so without you even knowing it. It has very badly written hackish code because of which your PC can slow down, cause it to freeze unexpectedly and prevent it from even booting.
Anti-spyware software like Lavasoft Ad-aware, Spybot are available for free. Nowadays, most anti-virus companies also offer anti-spyware bundled in their internet security suites. But Ad-aware and Spybot offer much better protection.

5. Turn off File and Printer Sharing.

Unless you want to transfer files between computers directly very frequently or have a home network, you would not need this feature enabled. To disable File and Print Sharing, goto Control Panel -> Network and Internet Connections -> Network Connections. Right-click on the network connection shown as connected, select properties. De-select 'Client for Microsoft Networks' and 'File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks'. Click OK and you are done.

6. Make sure Automatic Updates is turned on.

Microsoft keeps on releasing fixes for critical flaws found in Windows on a monthly basis.
So it is better to have automatic updates turned on so that your PC keeps itself up-to-date with the fixes and you don't have to manually do it. Go to Control Panel and click Security Center (If you haven't installed SP2 first, you wont see this entry in the Control Panel.). Make sure all three lights for firewall, updates and anti-virus are green and their status is 'ON'. If not, click on them and Windows will tell you how you can turn them on.

7. Use a safe browser, use Firefox.

The browser is your interface to the internet and the gateway for malware to enter into your PC. Most malware problems are caused in the first place because of loopholes in Microsoft Internet Explorer which most people use. Firefox is a much safer browser to use than Internet Explorer. Plus, it's free! But if you really need Internet Explorer, at least use IE7. It is bit more secure. But I personally would still recommend using Firefox.

8. Don't install unknown software.

Tons and tons of software are available out there but all may not necessarily be well-behaved. Do not use software which you have never heard about. Make sure the software has a good review done somewhere. Most softwares which contain spyware are offered free of cost to make them attractive to the user. But once you install them, they open up a gateway for other such spyware to get installed on your PC.

9. Browse safely.

Don't visit shady sites or warez websites. Many are specifically built only to take advantage of vulnerabilites in Windows and takeover control of your computer. If you really want to browse such sites, use Firefox and disable javascript. Don't click on any pop-ups you might get unexpectedly. If you want to close a pop-up while browsing such sites, click the close button of the window.

10. Use Linux.

If you use your PC only for browsing the internet, use Linux OS instead of Windows. It is much more safer and reliable although installing it might be difficult. But once you have installed it, you can be sure that you will never get any virus, spyware or malware related problems ever. It is also available for free. There are any varieties of Linux available. If you have never used Linux before, you should use Ubuntu Linux.

If you follow the above measures, you should be free of any malware problems while using Windows. Happy surfing!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

My Desktop.. (It's not Vista)

This is a screenshot of my desktop that I use at home. To Windows users everywhere, it's not Vista. It's Linux!

Many people especially Windows users are unaware that you can have a PC without Windows loaded on it. But you can!

Linux is an operating system just like Windows or OSX.

Linux, however, is a totally free and you don't have to pay for it like you have to for Windows. Also, it's open source i.e. anyone can view the source code. This means that it is more secure as a lot of people have had a look at it's source. Windows however is closed-source so no one knows how many security holes it has.

Linux also is very much configurable, has tons of free quality software that works on it and all this comes in one package!

So, do you want to know how to get linux?

There are many linux distributions (i.e. flavors like mango, stawberry etc but it is still all ice-cream). The most easy to install is probably Ubuntu. This will get you started but wont overwhelm you as you make the switch from Windows.

Beware that since Windows has been dominant for many years, Linux is ideal for you if you use the PC only for surfing the net, playing music, movies etc, as specialized software is made only with Windows in mind. However, if you really want to run your Windows programs, it just might work on Linux using wine. Even Microsoft Office can run with Crossover Office. And games like WoW, Half-life, Counter-strike are just a click away with Cedega. Keep in mind that wine is free but Crossover Office and Cedega are not.

The Linux distro (short for distribution) I am using above is called openSUSE. It's made by Novell which has been popular for a long time for it's Netware operating system. I would recommend it to someone who is a little more technically inclined.

When installing Linux, you should dual-boot it with Windows i.e. keep both Windows and Linux on your PC (yes, two or more operating systems can be installed on a PC). This is because most probably, you are going to require Windows at some point of time.

Now, you might ask me, why Linux?

First of all, it's free!! (nothing can beat economics, right?) However, you may need to pay for getting manuals and technical support, if you really want them.

Secondly, it does not have viruses, spyware and a plethora of other such malware that plagues Windows. So it really gives you a sense of security and also increases your productivity.

Linux has a lot of excellent applications which you don't have in Windows. They are also all free! Let me list a few of them.

1. Amarok

This media player really rocks! It easily beats Windows Media Player hands down and is much better than iTunes or Winamp. Check it out and you wont regret that you got Linux!


This is a free alternative to Microsoft Office and is somewhat compatible with Microsoft Office documents.. (It's not now because Microsoft does not want it to be so that it can sell it's own Office.)

3. Firefox Web Browser

This web browser is an alternative to Internet Explorer and also runs on Windows. It is very secure and web standards-compliant. You will not get any virus, spyware problems if you browse the net with this browser.

4. The GIMP

The GIMP is an advanced image editing software and can be used also as an excellent paint program. It's got tons of features and effects which you can use.

There are many more excellent applications available (all free) like Mplayer, Kaffeine, tvtime, Mythtv, Beagle Search, Apollon and more, but listing them all down here would be nearly impossible.

Linux also is a lot more configurable and if you are even a little bit technically inclined, you can make it look exactly like Vista, XP or even Mac OSX!

Now, to the fun part! The cube-like desktop which you see above is because of an application called Compiz. You can see in action in a Youtube video below. Check it out.

It is still in development and offers many cool desktop effects without sacrificing on stability and usability. And for the enthusiasts, it also offers effects which provide more eye-candy but sacrifices usability a little bit though.

Linux can be very useful especially when Windows is giving you trouble. I found it very handy to recover my data on a hard-disk when Windows refused to start and kept rebooting because of a virus problem. Just a quick boot to Linux, copy the essential files over to Linux partition or CD and it's done.

Linux is a very stable operating system and you cannot bring it down if you don't enter the root password (it's like a master key to all locks) anywhere. So you can give it to absolutely anyone to use without disclosing the root password and they wont be able to make serious changes like delete essential system files etc. Just create a new user account and you are ready to go again.

So with this, I hope to have convinced you to try Linux or even if you do not like it, just install it as a backup for your computer. Try it and I am sure you will like it.