Friday, 26 January 2007

Peep out your Window..

Why do all Windows have the same style? Why is there no variety. On Windows front u have no choice but to live with the Windows UI that microsoft gives you, whether you like it or not. What if you wanted to use the Macintosh UI? U have no choice. On the contrary there are so many GUI projects in the UNIX world that I can explain only a few of the most remarkable ones.

One of the earlier ones were designed to work with very limited resources. For people who want a Windows 95 like interface there is FVWM(F? Virtual Window Manager). Sorry.. Do not ask me what F stands for. The original Author, Rob Nation himself forgot what it originally stood for. But I am asuming F stood for FVWM just like GNU stands for GNU is Not Unix. It was developed as an improvement to otherwise ugly twm. The screenshot showed here is the very minimalistic FVWM2 interface. No themes at all. Click it for a bigger view. Or visit the fvwm official site for more screenshots and really cool ones.

Another interesting Interface was called WindowMaker. I say "was called" because due to some naming issues it was sued by a company making Windows and Doors and they changed the name to Window Maker to relate it to the X-Window process in which it creates windows. This was the first interface I used on Linux and it was very simple, very light weight(used on a machine with 8MB RAM) and very different. It does not have a start menu. But it does have a nicely hidden application menu where all the apps reside. To get this you just have to right click on the desktop. I experimented with this and designed three themes for it. Just search my name, Sam Albuquerque, on Google and you will find the first link pointing to these themes that I designed myself. For direct access click this link

If you like the XP look and feel there is another project called the XPde(XP Desktop Environment). The aim of the XPde project is to make it easier for XP users to migrate to Linux. Just have a look at the screenshots at, the official Website of XPde. They have managed to get many of the XP features into xpde. The ALT+TAB works similar to Xp, the strat menu is similar to that of XP, etc.

There are many such Interfaces. But two major environments on which many such interfaces work are the GNOME and the KDE. GNOME stands for the GNU Network Object Model Environment. GNOME is usually distributed by almost every distribution of Linux. It was started as an answer to KDE because KDE used a set of libraries which at the time of its conception was not free. The Qt libraries which KDE used was then made free by Trolltech. However, GNOME and KDE evolved out as two string projects with lots of wonderful features and applications developed. Both of them have their own office suites too. Visit for details on the GNOME project and to see a lot of their screenshots.

KDE can be accessed at KDE was started with a view to bring some consistency in the Unix applications of the time since all applications had its own look and feel. Matthias Ettrich, who started the KDE project was concerned that his girlfriend was having difficulty in using his desktop. He started developing a complete desktop environment by using the Qt libraries and other programmers joined his bandwagon. There was initial concerns which spurred the GNOME movement. But Trolltech finally made its source code open under the GPL and now there are no issues at all. So finally everyone loves Konqi the friendly dragon.

Allow me to make you a bit more jealous. Does your Windows support 3d desktop? Our cute little Linux supports a fantastic 3D desktop using XGL Cube. Its sexy, it superb and its WOW!! I wont say more now but let you watch for yourself the power of linux with this XGL video..

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Commands and GUI (Graphical User Interface)


This is my first blog, after my friend, Sam, convinced me to write up a blog. As many of us know that Linux is a command based interface. Where you have to remember those complex commands. But its not always that you should remember those commands. If you are stuck up with a commands syntax you can use a man command. They can be referred as manual pages for the command.

For eg. To know the syntax of command rpm you have to type on command prompt

man rpm

and press enter key. This will bring you a complete syntax, various parameters, arguments and combinations of those parameters and arguments to be passed to the command.( You can try it out on a Linux machine)

Now second example like Windows user may be knowing, to list the contents of drive we type command dir, this will list all the contents of a particular drive. Now you don't what command is to be used in Linux. Then just type the following command

apropos directory

This will list all the commands which are associated with directories. If you are not sure which command is to be used you can use man to know the details. See its so easy!!!!!
You don't have to remember the commands. These will make you understand that Linux is not so hard even at command level.

Coming to GUI (Graphical User Interface), not all Linux are dedicatedly on command based. Even Linux have a GUI. For example GNOME and KDE are most developed GUI for Linux. Other GUI's like IceWM, Fluxbox or Afterstep, Xfce4 etc. which are LightWeight GUI's are also available. Isn't it great to know that you have multiple choices for a GUI.

In Microsoft world you are left with no other option but Windows. On contrary for Linux you have multiple GUI's.

But why is there different GUI? This choice of GUI has been made possible by the nature of open source (Linux). This allows anyone to develop a GUI to answer specific needs. Thus, all these GUI have a reason to exist: to fit the needs and goal of those developing them. That also means that there isn't a "best" or "worst" GUI. There's only GUI that are, or aren't, adapted to your needs. The idea is then to find the one that's right for you...

Friday, 12 January 2007

A short HOWTO - Installing Softwares

Linux does not have the setup.exe like Windows. On the contrary they have many brilliant or sometimes rather boring and tiring approach. All depends on where and in which form you get the software. Let me describe to you some of the popular approaches.

On the RedHat and many derived platforms including SuSe and mandrake(now Mandriva) as also Fedora, the main installation program that has been for ages is the 'rpm'(Redhat Package Manager). You need to download your package(software) and store it somewhere. Use the rpm command to install it. The rpm command is very simple:
rpm -ivh packagename.rpm
-i Install
-v Verify before install
-h Use Hashes [ ###### ] to show installation progress
packagename.rpm the package that you are installing

Optionally, You may replace the -i with an -U if you are upgrading the package, as it will throw error messages otherwise. If you ever come across a dependency issue and you have the dependency package in the same folder then just add an -aid in the end.

The removal of the package is simpler.
rpm -e packagename
You do not have to use the rpm or even keep the rpm package. If you have installed the package that is enough. Just use the command from anywhere on the command line.

The Debian based ditros used a tool called dpkg to install .deb files. If you ever lay your hands on a .deb file issue this command to install it:
dpkg -i filename.deb
is Install

There is a new way to install softwares without even downloading them and without having to worry about the dependencies. this is called the repository based update. All of the Red Hat based distros depend on a tool called yum(Yellow dog Updater, Modified). As you may have guessed, it was originally designed for the Yellow dog Distro of Linux and was then named yup. The new yum has now replaced the original yup in Yellow dog and is being used by almost all RedHat based distros and support repositories of each other to some extent. The tool that Fedora uses is called yum and so is the one used by CENTOS, Yellow dog and many other RedHat clones. The one used by RHEL is called up2date and can handle both yum and apt repositories. SUSE has it integrated with YaST and OpenSUSE entirely uses a yum repository. The simples t way to install using a yum is
yum install packagename

The graphical tools using yum are:
  • KYum
  • pirut
  • Yum Extender
  • YaST2
A similar style has also been adopted by the Debian Side as well. The tool that they use is called APT(Advanced packaging Tool) APT was originally designed as Debian's tool for their dpkg tool to install .deb packages. There are many front-ends to this tool. The one that you would usually come across at the command line is called the apt-get which works exactly like the yum. The command for installing using apt-get is:
apt-get install packagename

The graphical tools used instead of apt-get are
  • Adept Package Manager
  • KPackage
  • Synaptic Package Manger
The most difficult way to install a package is when you have the source code of the package and not the binary. This is the time when you need to compile it. These packages usually come in the form of .zip, .tgz, .tar.gz, formats.

So let me guide you to identify and extract these packages first before you move with the installation part.
.zip is as usual a Compressed ZIP file using a zip tool so just use unzip to unzip it.
unzip filename

and .tar.gz are gzipped tarball. So you need to gunzip it and untar it to extract it. This is done by
tar -zxvf filename.tgz and tar.bz2 is a bzipped tarball and you need to use bunzip it and untar it. This can be done by replacing the z above command with j.
tar -jxvf filename.tar.bz2

Next, look for files like README or INSTALL to get hint on how to install the specific software. If not follow these steps. Most of the packages are built this way. Usually you will find that there is a file named Makefile in the main folder. You will also find a file called configure. configure will help you to identify the variables specific to your machine so that the package can be optimised for it. It will also find the required packages. You have to install the following commands one after the another; ignore the garble you get but watch for error messages, if any.
make install
make clean

./configure will create the configuration files for you
make will compile the entire package.
make install will install the package
make clean will clear the source folder of all the compiled files.

Now that you have learnt all the ways to install the softwares on Linux, go find yourself a package and start installing. If you are scared of the command line, go use the Synaptic Package Manger, KPackage, YaST2 or Yum Extender.

Enjoy the new power that you have learnt today....

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Linux @ WorkPlace

Companies need to make profits and not losses from their infrastructure. How do you achieve this if your machine crashes every now and then? How does your employee focus on his work if every other week a computer geek is lingering on his machine trying to remove the deadly virus or a secret spyware from his machine? How is the company profits meant to rise if the amount you pay to maintain the company infrastructure is huge? How?

Companies stick to Windows because they have never known of any other option. They have always been taught that there is one Windows and thats it. No one told them of options to the Windows. No one probably ever asked, "Is there a Doors too?". There is a Gates as we all know, but no Doors or Walls(There is Larry Wall and his Perl). No one really knows except the community.

The major requirement in the companies are Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Accounting, Emails, IM, printing, filesharing, and thats it. It hardly ever goes more than this. You don't need to buy a licensed copy of Windows to work on all these stuff. Not that I am advocating piracy which is common anyway in most part of the world and the main reason for Windows success, but I am pointing you in a direction that is entirely different. The best option out there is Linux, and I say this by experience.

Linux comes shipped with all the softwares you would require for your office environment. OpenOffice 2.0 is distributed as part of all major distros. Some also come with Abiword and KOffice. Some GNome distros ship gnumeric which is a spreadsheet like Excel. There is already a plethora of word processing packages that do not require you to learn any coding as the popular myth goes. The GUI of Linux is also very intuitive and easy to learn.

As a case study, let me speak of the place where i worked earlier. The systems used in the entire organization were either Windows 98 or XP. I was the only one using RHEL 3.0 and my teammate later asked me to install one for him(I installed RHEL 4.0). So we had two linuxes, which were more of an envy for all the people in the organization. As we used to leave our machines locked, no one could access them. If ever we ask them to use it, they would get awestruck at whats in front and leave sayng I dont know how to operate it. It was just their mind playing games.

I realized this one fine day. The peon in my organization had some work to do. But there were no machines free for him. My friend was on leave. He asked if he could use the machine. i said try and logged in for him. Thats it. I carried on with my work. 10 minutes later when I turned my head towards him, he was working on Mozilla Firefox, opening our company's internal application processing orders(which was his duty). I gave a pat on his back and explained him that people who held a higher post were reluctant to use this stuff but he did it without any help.

We later installed two more machines using Ubuntu and the employees were handling it smoothly. That was a success.

So if you plan to have huge savings in your organization, switch to Linux... SLOWLY..

Slowly <--Remember this keyword. A sudden switch over will have reactions and fingers pointing at you. But a slow switchover will have people dying to use the new system. Create Envy by frequently pointing out the benefits that you are having.. Have fun.. The work becomes a better place.

The battle is tough

Debian and Redhat have been fighting a long battle since long. This is due to their implementation of linux and the philosophies they follow.

Debian is a community based distro, or should i say parent distro. Its main philosophy is to use softwares that are under the GNU GPL only. So you will never find a debian rolling out with KDE. The child distros or derivatives may, for example Kubuntu and Knoppix.

Red Hat on the other hand is a company. They are here to make business and so they are ready to have softwares that are non-GPL clubbed with their distro. They can even add other open source projects which follow other open source license.

But difference still exist in many other aspects. One major aspect is that of packaging. Redhat uses the popular RPM(RedHat package manager) where as Debian has their dpkg(Debian package). Both distros now have their repository based installers like yum/up2date for RedHat-Fedora families and apt-get for all debian based distros. You can't install a debian package easily on a Redhat nor can u easily install an RPM on a debian. There are softwares that can help you with that. Softwares like Alien. But they are not as acceptable.

Still all of us agree that RedHat and Debian are the biggest players of Linux market. This battle will go on for ever until if one day both decide to merge which probably is just a dream..