Sachin Sharma
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Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.
- Obi Wan Kanobi
- StarWars III - Revenge of the Sith


Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) Upgrade Woes

I upgraded to Ubuntu 9.04 within 2 weeks of its release. For me, it broke more than what it fixed. I spent almost a week after the upgrade bringing things to how it used to work. Here is a list of all the problems I faced. Note that none of the listed problems were there on Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid).

Reconfigure ADSL connection at every boot

This is the first of my problems. I have a ADSL connection at home. After the upgrade when I tried “pon dsl-provider” it just did not connect. Running the “plog” command told me that the “network is down”. All right. I did a “sudo pppoeconfig” and configured my internet. Then “pon dsl-provider” again. This time I got an error saying that only users of the “dip” group are permitted to use this command. What the hell? Anyway, I did “sudo pon dsl-provider” and the internet connected just fine. The next day when I restarted the PC and tried “sudo pon dsl-provider”, guess what? Yes, I get the “network is down” error again. Right up till now I have to do a “sudo pppoeconfig” everytime I boot my PC.

Only users of the “dip” group are permitted to use “pon dsl-provider”

A workaround is to use “sudo pon dsl-provider”. I have a script though that connects and disconnects to the internet and it runs under my own user's cron tasks. Hence I need the “pon dsl-provider” to work correctly without using “sudo”. I tried a “sudo adduser sharma dip” and Ubuntu faithfully added the user “sharma” to the “dip” group. Then I tried “pon dsl-provider” again and wasn't surprised to see the same error again. I went to System > Administration > Users and Groups and found that there is no group named “dip”. How did it add the user to the “dip” group when there wasn't any? The answer is still a mystery. Anyway, I added a new group “dip” and selected “sharma” as a user under “dip”. I tried again and got the same error. All right now, time to google the problem. Soon I found out that the group ID of “dip” is suppose to be 30 and the “dip” group I added had group ID 1000 or something. So I went to “Users and Group” again and corrected the problem. Finally I was able to connect to the Internet without using “sudo”.

New version of transmission-remote broke my scripts

I have a script that is scheduled using “crontab” to connect to the internet every night, pick up the next torrent and start downloading it. Every morning, it disconnects from the Internet and shuts down the PC. For this I use transmission-daemon and transmission-remote. After the upgrade, my script, which is written in Python started giving exceptions. Now what? There were 2 problems. First, transmission-remote now needs authentication. So “transmission-remote -l” that gave me perfectly valid torrent list before now started giving a authentication failure type of error. Google again and I found out that the new command is “transmission-remote -n transmission:transmission -l” (-n is same as --auth required to provide user name and password for authentication). The second problem was that the output of the list (“-l” option) now added another column that broke parsing code of my script. So I had to go ahead and fix both these issues in the script.

VLC media player crashes when I open any video

As if the above problems were not enough, the moment I tried watching a movie by opening it in VLC media player, it crashed. A video that was playing just fine in Ubuntu 8.10 started crashing for no reason. I tried Movie Player and even that crashed. This gave me a clue that this has something to do with the video drivers since both players are crashing. I started fidgeting around VLC media player's settings and found that there is a choice of video outputs. I selected “X11” and the crash disappeared.

VLC media player video performance hit

As soon as I figured out and worked around VLC media player's crash, I bumped into this little issue. The video performance was distinctly slower than earlier. The video output was showing tearing for hi-motion scenes. I googled and found that this has something to do with Intel drivers and the new version was reported to have dropped video performance already. I tried going back to the old drivers by following the steps provided but did not get back the performance. I still boot into Windows XP when I want to watch a movie.

VLC media player's video is displayed in another window

At this point I felt like giving up and switching back to Windows. But I really like Linux and want to use it for most of the things I do. So I googled the problem again and found that there was in fact a bug in VLC media player that affected embedding video in the main window. Now that I switch to Windows for viewing videos this isn't really a problem for me. I do check VLC media player after every update to see if the bug has been fixed. Google also revealed that the bug is fixed in VLC media player version 1.0, which is currently in Beta.

Visual Effects stopped working

This started with 8.10. I have a PC with no graphic card. It has an Intel motherboard and chip. On earlier versions of Ubuntu, Visual Effects worked just fine. Not only the Normal setting, but Extra also. On 8.10, Extra did not work but Normal did. On 9.04, both, Normal and Extra don't work. I am not a huge fan of Visual Effects so I can live with this. But the Normal setting does give certain extra features that kind of feels like a must-have.

I remember the first time I had tried Ubuntu 7.04. The OS impressed me so much that I started switching over everything from Windows to Ubuntu. Till the time I went up to 8.10, things were just going smoothly. Yes, every upgrade changed the way Internet is managed and one upgrade broke my screen resolution but those were only singular issues. With Ubuntu 9.04 though, I faced so many issues. It is distinctly faster but at the cost of so many other problems.

It made me wonder that there was Ubuntu 7.04 that converted me to Linux and now there is Ubuntu 9.04 that would have never made me switch from Windows to XP. Although, I stand converted now.

Linux is free right, what more do you expect? Well at least not regressions. If things worked earlier, it should work after the upgrade also.
Saturday, June 06, 2009 at 12:11 PM. Comments: 2.
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Windows 7: Progress Indication in Task Bar Application Icon

I have been following the progress of Windows 7 for some time now. The new UI enhancements are superb. The world has received Windows 7 well and almost every aspect of Windows 7 has been covered in great details by many websites.

Many positive reviews prompted me to go ahead and try Windows 7 public beta (Build 7000). So I installed it on one my PCs and started playing with it. First impression – the new OS is very snappy and feels good. I tried everything that I read about Windows 7 on the Web and was thrilled to experience the features first hand.

One feature that I did not find in any of the websites is this nifty little feature. When you download a file or copy a file then Windows 7 will show the progress in the task bar icon of the the program used for downloading or copying. This is really cool. So when I was downloading drivers on Windows 7, it actually displayed the download progress in the Internet Explorer application icon in the task bar. It is a green bar moving to cover the entire icon.

Here is a screen-shot:

My guess is that Windows 7 will automatically do this for any application that shows a single progress bar in a dialog box owned by the application.
Monday, April 20, 2009 at 8:35 PM. Comments: 0.
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Glossy, Tropic and Tango make an excellent Ubuntu theme

Ubuntu's Human theme felt good for some time but eventually for me it lost its charm. I feel that orange is too bright and is not suitable for a color that I use at work. A “work” color should be soothing and one such color is blue.

Up to Ubuntu 8.04, I used the Blubuntu theme exclusively. It was nice, soothing and very good looking. But when I upgraded to Ubuntu 8.10, keeping Blubuntu meant no human theme. I finally chose to remove Blubuntu and upgrade to the new human theme.

Now I was in search of a new theme for Ubuntu that I can work with. I tried all the “blue” themes from “Appearance” but found something wrong with each of them. Some of them did not have a rich set of icons while others didn't look right.

I also tried a bunch of “dark” themes. Some of them were really good but I just couldn't stand looking at white web-pages with dark borders and toolbars in Mozilla Firefox. Finally I gave up and uninstalled all dark themes from my computer. Ubuntu's default “Dark Room” also did not cut it.

After a lot of trials, I finally settled on a Custom theme that combined Controls from Glossy theme, Window Border from Tropic and Icons from Tango.

This one feels really good and something that I can keep for along time. I don't like the blue colored scroll-bars though. Scroll-bars, when inactive should either dissappear or blend into the window's colors. They shouldn't appear bright to the corner of one's eyes taking unnecessary focus.

If not already installed, you will have to install Tropic and Tango themes from Synaptic Package Manager.
Saturday, March 14, 2009 at 1:57 AM. Comments: 0.
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New start menu for Ubuntu - Deskbar

I love to use the keyboard. I hardly touch the mouse while doing my most routine tasks. My routine tasks involve opening a program or starting a movie. Using the keyboard to navigate through the start menu and spot the program takes more time than just using the mouse. If the program is not installed then it takes even more time since now I have to open the explorer go to the right folder and then open it. What if it is a movie file?

Now with Ubuntu's new Deskbar applet (at least I saw it for the first time on Ubuntu 8.10), things are much easier. I hit Alt + F3 and simply type in the few letters of the program or file I am trying to work with. Almost instantly, you get a list of useful programs and files matching those letters and more useful actions. This is super. Sometimes, I have to open a folder containing all my logs. I don't want to open a specific log. So using the deskbar, I type in “log” and there comes up all my files. I then select log, press the right key and there I have “open location...”. This is great.

I hardly use the start menu anymore. It is all Deskbar for me. Why don't I have one of these on Windows? ;)
Monday, February 02, 2009 at 11:03 PM. Comments: 0.
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Scheduling shutdown in Ubuntu

To make it simple to schedule tasks use gnome-schedule. This little GUI application manages all “crontab” tasks (wow!). The application is available in Synaptic Package Manager. Here is a screenshot of gnome-schedule.

Although it is quite simple to add tasks and programs that you want to schedule, scheduling shutdown is a little tricky. It turns out that only the root can schedule the command “shutdown -h now”. I tried using root (sudo) to give shutdown permission but couldn't get scheduled shutdown to work.

So, to schedule shutdown, type “sudo gnome-schedule” on the terminal. The gnome-schedule application opens up to accept root tasks. The command line to use is “/sbin/shutdown -h now”. Configure the task to use this command and you are done.
at 10:58 PM. Comments: 1.
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The Government sleeps through India’s suffering

Yet again terrorists strike. Mumbai cries again. When will this end? What is our strategy to counter such acts of terrorism? How can we keep terrorists to strike again? What is the government doing? Sleeping, I guess. Is praying to God and doing nothing is our strategy? God helps them who help themselves, you know. It is us who will have to do something about it.

Government’s attitude towards terrorism seems to have echoed by a minister (don’t remember his name) who stated “we can’t have a policeman for every Indian”. Is that how Government envisions our strategy of fighting terrorism inside our country? Can’t they think of anything smart?

Right after 9/11, USA woke up and formed a “Department of Homeland Security” to gather intelligence related to terrorist attacks and counter them in time. I don’t see them putting 1 policeman for every American. Can’t we do something similar?

We don’t even need to form a new agency. We have ATS. It is just that their job has now become a lot more crucial. Mistakes are bound to happen. Our job is to learn from our mistakes and ensure that it does not happen again. I believe in second chances but not in third, fourth and tenth.

It is high time for our Government to wake up and do something about our situation. We should at least start something. It is much better than 0. Even if we have 1 in a 100 chance of averting a terrorist strike, let us take it. Form or enhance an agency and made them responsible for their incapability of averting future terrorist strikes. Adopt a no-compromise policy towards combating terrorism.

And what is up with security checks only when there is a terrorist strike? Why can’t it be sustained? When something of this magnitude happens, you will see security being beefed up everywhere but that lasts only for a month or so. Here also there is a lot of scope of improvement. The moment any of our security agencies senses danger, they should raise a nation-wide or state-wide security alert. Every organization can then respond by increasing security corresponding to the announced danger level.

We should have a system in place or Indian’s will continue to suffer.

P.S: I just don’t want to put something in words and do nothing about it myself. I guess I am frustrated and trying to think hard about what I can do – individually. I am planning to scour the web to find possibilities. I’ll see what turns up.
Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 11:24 AM. Comments: 0.
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We Didn't Start the Fire

A few completely wrong things happening around us in India currently in spotlight:
  1. Raj Thakeray's self righteous and ridiculous actions against non Maharashtrains, which is not only against the sovereignty of our nation but also against humanity.
  2. Mamata Banerjee's stand on the Tata Nano plant in Singur and retail chains that is a potential threat to India's progress.
  3. Attack on Christians and Churches in Orissa.
I don't blame the likes of Raj Thakeray or Mamata Banerjee. These people are only interested in power and money. I blame the common man for listening to them. I wonder why people in India lack common sense or education? Don't people have jobs (I think yes)? If these people stop listening and start thinking, Rajs and Mamatas won't exist. For once, I wish that the common man in India think on their own and not act as trained animals for a few mindless power-hungry politicians.

In situations like these, Billy Joel's legendary song "We Didn't Start the Fire" springs to mind.

The Lyrics:

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I", and "The Catcher in the Rye"

Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron
Dien Bien Phu and "Rock Around the Clock"

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, "Peter Pan", Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez


Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, "Bridge on the River Kwai"

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, "Ben-Hur", space monkey, Mafia
hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo


Hemingway, Eichmann, "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs Invasion

"Lawrence of Arabia", British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say


Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon, back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollolah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

"Wheel of Fortune" , Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shore, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller Cola Wars, I can't take it anymore


We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on...

To understand the meaning of words in the lyrics, visit
Tuesday, September 02, 2008 at 11:46 PM. Comments: 0.
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15 Characteristics of the Pune Railway Station

I had been to Hyderabad recently. Rajkot - Secunderabad Express was 8 hours late and we had the "honor" of spending an entire night (almost) on Pune Railway station.

Here are 15 characteristics of the Pune Railway Station:
  1. It stinks
  2. There are only 2 waiting rooms in a railway station that has 7 platforms
  3. It stinks
  4. 1 waiting room is reserved for ladies and it stinks
  5. It stinks
  6. The other waiting room is 'general" and it also stinks.
  7. It stinks even more
  8. There are hundreds of homeless people that sleep on the stinking Platform 1 of the stinking railway station without any stinking problem.
  9. It stinks a lot
  10. We visited like 15 different stations during our visit to Hyderabad and all of them were much better than Pune Railway Station
  11. And once again, it stinks
  12. There are only a few retiring rooms and they were full. These facilities are grossly inadequate and I smell a rat here.
  13. It stinks
  14. People on the counters are extremely rude
  15. As if I have not said it enough - it stinks :)
Can you believe that this is Pune's own Railway Station? I don't know what happened to the "Pune Railway Station Beautification Project" undertaken a few years back?

The only place that seems habitable in the entire Pune Railway Station is Cumsome. Even then we spent like 5 hours on this stinking railway station. Like they say: "Majboori ka naam...".
Monday, August 25, 2008 at 10:03 PM. Comments: 0.
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