30 October 2009


A friend of mine is using his free time to teach about Linux and FLOSS at a school - he managed to convince the school to do this on Saturdays.

Recently he did an interesting experiment with the kids: got bootable images for a number of distros and they put those on LiveUSB media and tried to boot and play with them. Unexpectedly, only Ubuntu worked and everything else failed to start, including Fedora 12 Beta, so their conclusion was "the school computer only support Ubuntu".

I was shocked to learn this, I had terrible pains with F11, which failed for every install I tried due to the Anaconda storage rewrite, but in my experience F12 was rock solid from this point of view.

But soon I identified what I believe to be the root of the problem, they used UNetbootin to write the live USB media, a tool which is supposed to work with a large very number of distros. I have no idea if Fedora 12 failed to boot because the media was written with a tool not updated for our new hybrid images or due to general suckiness of the tool, but I was really amused to read on UNetbootin web page (emphasis mine):

"Requirements: Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7, or Linux. If you are having trouble with the Linux version, try the Windows version, it usually works better."
Hint for my friend Tibi: next time use "dd" on Linux. It will work better (at least for Fedora).

28 October 2009


I learned the series about Linux and FLOSS will start airing on the Romanian national (public) television, with the first part, where Lucian and me talked about what is Linux, the purpose of distros, a comparison of Ubuntu and Fedora and more being expected tomorrow.

The bad part is the show was moved from Saturday morning to Thursday afternoon, so is hard to catch by someone with a full time job like me, the good part is the show will probably be re-run (again and again, at unknown dates and times) on TVRHD, a channel with smaller audience but better image quality (HD).

So if you have the time, watch TVR2, tomorrow Thursday, 29 October 2009 in between 17:00-17-30 to catch our little segment (I believe around 5 minutes long) in the show called Zon@ IT. I don't own the needed hardware, but if someone have a capture device, please share (I didn't saw the record myself yet, will not be able to catch it directly, so I am curious about it first hand, thanks).


That would normally be a mere comment, but since some people do not like the dialog and close the comment forms on their blog, I had to make it into a full blog post.

I see Matthias is very proud about his 5 tweaks for the F12 desktop (it seems he forgot the 6th, the removal of the "hide all windows" buttons), but as soon as one of them, the padding patch hit Rawhide (post feature-freeze) I started seeing people crying on user forums, wondering if it is a bug and other innocent but clueless people advising to play with the DPI settings or other useless things.

When I point this is a deliberate design decision, people thank goodness the setting can be reverted back to the original value, a sentiment I am totally sympathetic with, since myself also prefer the icons/items grouped close to the corners, not spread all over the panel and making it feel even more busy.

Tip: turn the padding back with:
gconftool-2 --type int --set /apps/panel/toplevels/top_panel/padding 0
gconftool-2 --type int --set /apps/panel/toplevels/bottom_panel/padding 0

27 October 2009

It's raining FLOSS conferences

If a while ago I thought there is very little of it, now it seems FLOSS conferences show in Romania like the mushrooms after a rain: first this year was eLiberatica, which this year made some steps in the right direction, towards community and openness, but still remain a commercial event.

Then FLOSSCamp, very fun, open and informal, but still a kind of conference.

Now, this week Bucharest is taking place LOAD, which smells like an incestuous way for some local distributor to milk money from a prominent North American Enterprise Linux vendor.

Next, for December is expected BLUG*OS*CON, which is new, at the first edition, so only the time will tell about it (I will be there, expect a report).

And this is not all, I know at least two other groups having on their agenda a „national FLOSS conference”. Isn't this a bit too much? I believe the natural evolution is supposed to filter this on the long term and promote quality over quantity.

23 October 2009

Better webcam support

One of the features listed at every Fedora release is Better Webcam Support and as it does not sound very sexy, it tends to get overlooked, I don't think I mention it myself when translating a summary of the features in a new release. Shame on me.

More than one year ago I got a "free" cheap and poor webcam (read 'crappy', powered by the sn9c20x chipset)- it was thrown by the store at a bonus when purchasing something (IIRC a scanner). My frustration with grew fast and large, wasn't able to make it work on Linux, so I just gave it away to a colleague to use it with Yahoo Messenger on Windows.

Fast forward today, the webcam returned to me and on a whim I said to myself "what will happen it I plug it into my newly installed Fedora 12 Beta?"

better webcam support fedora 12

Pleasant surprise: it worked! Sure, not the best image quality (the camera is cheap and not new any more), but I don't really need it for anything.

So yes, there are things to complain in F12, but also there are a lot of enjoyable parts.

22 October 2009

Give back my icons

To have the party complete, after you installed Fedora 12 [beta] you most likely will want some eye candy back (it was removed during this release cycle), so the first thing you way want to do is to restore beauty/sanity by changing one or two GConf entries:

fedora icons back

So check menus_have_icons and your icons are back, not only in applications but most importantly in Places and System. Being at it, you may consider scrolling up a bit to buttons_have_icons and cancel the uglification of various dialogs.

Then you can enjoy F12.

My own Windows 7 party

As those Windows 7 parties hosted all around the world I decided to celebrate by hosting my own party by updating the netbook from Fedora 11 to Fedora 12 Beta and sharing the photos:

fedora 12
boot, partitions, software selection, install, multimedia, done

Unfortunately, there was no booze as a) it was too early in the morning and b) I am at the office with some work to do in parallel. And unfortunately no booze this evening either, some of the Fedora guys are out of town and Ceata is caught in a programming workshop. There is time in the following days.

The install was smoother, as the experience with upgrading the desktop last week helped me to avoid wasting time with dreaded experiences GNOME Shell.

I think I may continue the party with upgrading a CentOS box tomorrow.

21 October 2009

Take 6: OSM

After some pause today went to the television for the sixth part, where following reader suggestions I invited Eddy to talk about Open Street Map, a project I am not very familiar with, but well covered by him.

And there are exciting news: it seems the shows will start airing next week, Thursday 29 October, around 17:00 on TVR2.

The way of the dodo

Like many others, I couldn't endure the wait and moved my main desktop from Fedora 11 to 12 a few days ago, in my case using the Beta RC2, so I could take advantage of the install DVD and perform a clean install (BTW, 'ext4migrate' as an Anaconda argument was helpful with moving my /home from ext3 to ext4).

The move to the Beta was the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse of the much hyped GNOME Shell preview, you know, is like going to a road you pass next to a horrible accident but you can't avoid looking at it, you are curious to see what is about. The same with GNOME Shell, from seeing screenshots and reading about it I had a good idea about what to expect and was expecting to dislike it, but I hat to see with my own eyes, try it for a couple of days, leave the first impression settle down and only then write about.

[gnone shell]

The very first impression is created by the color scheme, which feel originated from someone with a serious Vista envy. Hell, if I wanted a Vista wannabe I would have used ...KDE 4. No, thanks.

Then I tried to do some work done and see hot it feel. As an advanced users, I don't use a single application at a time, I have at least 3-4 windows open at any time and switching from one window to another is a very common operation. Not with GNOME Shell, which make this a pain: you get the desktop zooming and jumping all the time, which is very tiring. And needing additional mouse clicks.

It was so painful that I felt the urge to make it go away as soon as possible. Good luck with that! It was impossible to find a way to kill it (later when I built the courage to try it again I found an ugly and huge 'control panel' and logout buttons are available by clicking on your own name, which I find unintuitive) so I fired a terminal, manually started gnome-effect and said goodbye.

Looking at it my best hope is there is enough time until GNOME 3.0 for this experiment to go the way of the dodo and never make as a default, It may be a pretty toy for some and may have an use case for lightweight usage of your computer (isn't Moblin, also included in the Beta, better suited for the task?) but is far from something I could use for real work.

20 October 2009

Education,FLOSS, underage contributors

We received a contribution in the form of a few (anime style) character drawing sketches for a Free project promoting software freedom, but the contributor is a 15 years old girl who knows about nothing about licenses and freedom, she probably like do draw and consider the teacher to be a cool guy. Wanting to to "the right" thing, we tried to explain clearly what the free licenses are about and asked the parents to agree with the contribution. For this we put our engineer heads together and composed a text along the lines (rough English translation):

"I, ..........(parent) agree for my son/daughter, ........., to participate in the PojectName project with his/her graphic creations. Those creations will de distributed and modified with the author's attribution, according with the site terms of service"
...you can see how we tried to avoid introducing unknown terms as CC-BY, that would have confused further some parents who are not techies, as we avoided putting numbers or exact descriptions of the contributions, since you can't control those in an open project (I weighted a bit about involving the "blogosphere" into grafting the text but ultimately considered what we got "good enough").

Naturally the mother asked about the possible rewards and worried about her daughter splitting learning time with community work and naturally we answered as a 100% volunteer project we can't provide monetary compensation, we can provide some learning and experience, and if needed, some diploma.

Until now, nothing out of the ordinary to deserve wasting a blog post about, what upset me was a mother reaction like:
"If I would know she will be able later to live well from those drawings, icons, pictures... would not kill her so much with math... geometry and everything... there are so many talented kids with useless diplomas and medals they can not do anything with, they smply sell those for nothing..."
Duh! This is not an OR, is an AND, you cannot become a developed individual without art and community. Education is also culture, is finding you passion and developing it. I remember my childhood under the communist regime, when you were supposed to go to school, learn math, become an engineer, work in a factory, have children who will go to school, learn math, become engineers, work in a factory, have children...

Good thing I am a third party in the conversation above, I would have been tempted to stop it abruptly.

19 October 2009

One year of Ceata

Sunday a number of contributors meet for the one year anniversary of Ceata, an organization founded by a few students to promote Free technologies and arts (FLOSS), so it was an awesome opportunity to get together.

some of us

We had some surprises and it was frustrating for me to know weeks in advance about some cool [I think] personalised T-shirt designs made for a few key-contributors and not talk about them, so here are them:
alexxed bogdan cata cristi laur marius nicu ret tibi

Those were based on representative quotes carefully selected by Tibi from the mailing list, a rough sketch developed together by me and Tibi, with me doing the "polished" graphics:
intitial sketch

Then after a huge effort to find an usable print shop, we managed to get to the final "products":
we and our drawings

For me, they selected as a representative quote "Eu am primit 4 imbratisari de la 3 zine" (English: "I got 4 hugs from 3 fairies"), which is supposed to show the reald dreamer I am, it was seconded by a close candidate "Fedora 11 - zeite, voinici, spartani" (English: "Fedora 11 - goddesses, heroes, spartans") which lost by being locked in time to a certain version of the distribution.
nicu ceata
me, readying to wear my mark

Of course, everything was sealed in the most traditional style with mulled wine (hell, is autumn already, with cold, endless rain):
mulled wine
is the time for mulled wine

16 October 2009

Visual identity - ProLinux

The visual identity for Asociatia ProLinux was established after the public announcement, to give the community a chance to get involved. Our motto is Comunitate, idei, ajutor. ProLinux
(Community, ideas, help. ProLinux) and the logo is:


Based on the logo, I quickly made a 140x140 web banner, which can easily be used by any supporter:

14 October 2009

Box of eyes

After people complained about the big table with eyes as being nauseating, I realized there is a problem and a different presentation should be useful. A bit of head scratching and I remembered the old trick of mapping images to a box with GIMP so I decided to write a short piece about it (you can do it with any type of images).

Obviously the first step is to open an image in GIMP:

box of eyes

Then make a crop around the part you want to use, here I was interested in a cube with eye images on all its sides, so my crop was a square centered on the eye:
box of eyes

Open the image for a second face (for me a photo with the eye in a different color) as a new layer. The easiest way it to drag and drop the new image over the editing window, but you can also use the menu (File > Open as Layers):
box of eyes

Move the layer so it is properly centered and crop it again (draw freely a big crop box around the image, it will adjust automatically):
box of eyes

Repeat until you have 6 layers (a cube had 6 faces):
box of eyes

Then go to the Map Object filter (Filters > Map > Map Object):
box of eyes

Here in the Options tab set the image to be mapped to a box. Make sure you set the background as transparent:
box of eyes

And in the Box tab select the various layers as box faces (if you have less than 6 images/layers, you can repeat some of them):
box of eyes

In the Orientation tab, use the Rotation sliders to have a nice view to you box (preview wireframe is useful) and Position sliders to make sure it is centered:
box of eyes

If you want, go to the Light tab and adjust the type, color and position of the light and to the Material tab to adjust the amount of reflected light:
box of eyes

Press OK and you are done, enjoy the result:
box of eyes

13 October 2009

Asses and sharks

In case you missed my [bad] sense of humour, here is a quick drawing (mouse, inkscape and less than 5 minutes). If you didn't miss it, safely skip this post.

asses and sharks

Indeed, she was driven away from planet (did we become such an unfriendly place?) and, without you knowing, she is putting out beach photos.

12 October 2009

Eye photography

Saddened to learn how negative feedback and unpleasant members of the community drove tatica out of planet with her photography project, I am stubborn enough to continue posting photography stuff. I have a few friends in the community who will be totally jealous for my latest experience.

Last weekend, working on a half-commercial project (got no money, waived no ownership) for a friend who has a small online store selling cosmetic contact lenses I had the opportunity to learn how close (in a literal sense) is the phrase "I can see the world in your eyes" used by guys to impress girls (ops! I said "guys" and "girls"!)

world in eye

My friend is trying an interesting experiment: usually the websites selling cosmetic contact lenses use really bad (in GIF format, WTF) and heavily photoshopped) images, so a buyer can't set his/her expectations right, does not know what will get. So he is putting a bet on honesty, showing the unaltered truth.
lot of eyes

Beyond the artistic and technical part, we are debating the legalese: I am a huge adept of sharing and Free licenses and he has an opposite point of view, coming from and industry where nobody has any shame in stealing and reusing the photos. So in the end probably the photos will get to the public only at small resolution and bearing watermarks, something making me uncomfortable.

09 October 2009


It was frustrating in the last months when the launch was prepared (the bureaucracy is a killer) to know but not talk about it, but now all is in the open: Asociatia ProLinux is official, legal and public. It is a non-profit organization founded around the Romanian Linux Users Group, the oldest Linux/FLOSS association in Romania.

As a matter of fact, it was created a couple of years ago, but it was dormant, so it needed to be revived and relaunched, with new energy and new leadership (the mighty and wise wolfy as president, the dangerous rpetre as vice president and the joyful bearded secretary bogdanb).

Is very likely FLOSS people in Romania already used the services provided, if not the mailing list, at least the mirroring system.

05 October 2009

Brasero FAIL

I am usually happy with Brasero, use it all the time and is good enough for the majority of the tasks. Until I get to something like the case below:


FAIL one: my disc, my hardware, there is no reason I am denied to copy the bits. And it should not matter the disc is region encoded to US, I want to copy, not play it. And WTF? Plugins? there is no such thing for Brasero.

FAIL two: big size, it cannot be copied to a nomal (4.7GB) disk. More operations are needed.

My quickest solution: use DVDShrink (it works relatively well with Wine), recompress to an usable file size, drop CSS, drop other unwanted things and then use Brasero to burn it. Now I have an acceptable backup of the disk (a cartoon which got dangerously scratched by being used a lot by a child).