Saturday, July 26, 2008

The day i felt like Neo..

Ok, by Neo i mean The One in the movie 'The Matrix'. If you havent watched this epic movie, i suggest you do. This is one movie you surely dont wanna miss. Well, what happens in this movie is that this hacker aliased Neo lives in a virtual world called 'Matrix' and the people from real world try to contact him by sending messages to his computer.. 'Wake up, Neo. Follow the white rabbit!' [trailer]

Similar kind of message had started to appear my computer since yesterday. I was away from computer n when i came back, there was a libnotification popup message saying 'haha', 'happy birthday.. ' n like that.. i felt like being hacked coz my computer is always connected to internet. More worried than being hacked, i was interested on how it was done.. Read everything from libnotification api to hacking dbus through tcp/ip. I shared this situation to Ankur and Shankar too, and they too were quite puzzled.

But what happened this morning was out of proportion. The message appeared again! I woke up at around 8 in the morning, unlocked the screen to see if there's any new mail. No messages. Then i went to wash my face, and when i returned back, there was this popup message:

"The milk is on the table. Go and get it."

I was clever this time to take the screenshot.

The message..

You can see that the internet is disconnected. Surely, it hasn't come through the network. But lets not go into how it was done, lets focus on the message. I took a look at the other table, there was no milk cup too. But still i was confused about the message. Then i got up, turned around, n WTF, THERE WAS A CUP OF MILK ON THE TABLE NEXT TO THE WINDOW!!!

Are you kiddin me? I had this run over my spine but still i tried to control myself. Okay, "Go and get it." I was still confused. But i went and drank it (without coffee). Was something to happen to me? Well, nothing happened (but i sure had a terrible headache).

Then there were these plethora of questions that ran down my mind. Is 'somebody' 'watching' me? BTW, also look at the fortune cookie quote on the desktop. Does that imply anything? Also note the SETI satellite wallpaper!

The fortune cookie..

I was scared to death for a while and shocked till evening. What the hell happened? Also checked if i have dual-personality thingy too ;) Checked all logs, shell history.. nothing! Also wrote a mail to Shankar and Ankur explaining the situation. Ankur was already busy reading books on Conspiracy theory n what not (he always does :)). The whole thing went over-heated among us.

And finally during dinner i was asking mom n my sis on who touched my computer during morning. Mom def has nothing to do with my computer. And there was my sis, at first was playin cool but later on was goin like 'haha..' She was the one playing all the pranks with me!

Whenever you lock the screen in Linux, there an option to leave a message n i didnt know that.. Seems like she knows more linux functionalities than me.. She was the one behind yesterday's strange messages too..

The whole day i was like, 'OMG, i'm being contacted.. this Matrix thing DOES exist..' haha.. Felt like a total moron later on.. damn! My sis pranked me on my own computer, n i still didnt have a clue about it.. :) But nevertheless, feeling like being a Neo for the whole day was really cool!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

debugfs and rdump

If you have broken ext2/ext3 filesystem, these two commands can be your lifesaver. Atleast it brought my friend Abish's HDD 'out of coma' ;)

He had his important files in an ext3 filesystem which wasnt being mounted. It turned out that it had its journal broken. Did everything from disabling the file system's journal to trying out alternate superblocks. Even tried to convert it to ext2 format. fsck.ext3 didnt seem to repair a thing and hacks using tune2fs also didnt turn out good. We were on verge of finally letting go of data and formatting the hdd.

Then i found debugfs. The man page reads,

debugfs - ext2/ext3 file system debugger. The debugfs program is an interactive file system debugger. It can be used to examine and change the state of an ext2 file system.

Surprisingly debugfs seemed to list the files and folders of the filesystem. Cool enough, it also has a tool called rdump which recursively dumps a folder to another mounted disk.

So after invoking

# debugfs /dev/sda1
debugfs: rdump /home/ /mnt/externalhdd

and all the files were dumped to the external hdd safely. Simple, yet awesome!

PS: Me, Abish and Tushar were together when the recovery happened. Abish was so happy he took us all for a tea party right away. But no shops were open. Can you guess why? It was 2 at night!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Dharan FOSSification

The day i was supposed to go to Dharan, it was terai bandh and i was at Biratnagar. Really got numb on how to reach Dharan. But fortunately, Prahmod (of PUSET) managed a bike. Dilip (also present at FOSS Orientation Program) dropped me upto Itahari. From there took a bus to Dharan.

Coming from a week long stay at Biratnagar, Dharan was a heaven for me. Clean and cool. Abish and Tushar had managed me a room at BP Koirala Institute of Health Science (BPKIHS)'s Boys' hostel. Again impressed by the size of the college. And another impressive thing: no mosquito!

I'd already met with Tushar and Abish previously in Biratnagar and had infact known Abish since a long time, so no introduction required. During dinner we talked about the FOSS Training to be conducted the next day. I kept babbling about FOSS and stuffs. Tushar was especially interested on LTSP and Freedom Toaster. These guys were already making up their mind of taking LTSP to schools and cyber cafes.. Especially i found Tushar to be hyper-excited about all these stuffs.. We all stayed late night preparing for the training the next day.

BTW, one thing about Abish. He's a medical doctor and a computer geek. Multiple personality disorder, as he admits.. haha. We've been online frens since quite a while and even if there was no FOSS Training program at Dharan, i'd have gone there to meet him.

Well, about training, it was supposed to start at 10am, but there was power cut-off. So had to get a generator. And then again a voltage stablizer. The program finally kicked off at 11:30am.

We were to cover the following topics:
  1. Introduction to FOSS
  2. FOSS in Nepal
  3. Linux Installation (Ubuntu, using Wubi)
  4. Linux Desktop Basics
  5. FOSS Softwares
  6. LTSP Introduction
  7. Shell Basics

The linux distro for installation was Ubuntu and it was done through Wubi. Previously we also had plans to teach partitioning and other hells but later thought it'd jus scare the newbies. We also demonstrated the whole installation process and it went smooth. Nobody even had a hint of how hard it used to be to install linux couple of years ago..

Linux Desktop Basics basically dealt with general functionality of Linux Desktop (Gnome). It was fairly easy for the trainees to grab the concept. Not much different from Windows when it comes to GUI. Jus point and click. And we should really appreciate the latest distros, who have worked hard to make the shell as obsolete as possible.

About FOSS Softwares, almost everybody were familiar with Firefox and VLC. Few of them also had used before. Lots of them seemed to like Disk Usage Analyzer (baobab).

Each topic was followed by a query session. There were questions regarding security of FOSS to how to hide files in Linux ;). Each query session went soo long, we had to cut off the final topics on LTSP and Shell Basics. Everybody were so hyper-excited! There were just one or two guys who knew about FOSS before, but i think they are pretty much ignited now..

I think the training went pretty good. Everybody present there got a copy of Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 -- the CDs we'd burned during Ubuntu release party. Some of them took Fedora 9 CDs too. And ofcourse, i strongly encouraged them to SHARE the software and the CD.

During evening, the organizing team also had a meeting on forming a FOSS Dharan Community and they are going to register it very soon too. We at FOSS Nepal, Kathmandu now need to discuss on how to give affiliation to FOSS Dharan (and others that may form in near future) in a legal way..

In overall, i should say that FOSS Training at Dharan totally rocked! Finally, thanx to Dharan FOSS Team for the beautiful token of love.. Special thanx to Tushar's mom and sis for the wonderful food!

More photos are here.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Terai and Rickshaw

There are few things i really dont like about terai. The first one being the heat. I was brought up in a cool weather (of Baglung and Kathmandu) so cant tolerate heat. The second thing being the dirt and the foul smell. Not all but most places in terai has a peculiar smell that doesnt cope well with my nose. ;) I can point out few others but nothing beats my dislike for rickshaws.

I agree that rickshaws are convenient means of transportation on flat lands of terai and has provided employment to a lot. But dont u think they are inefficient and inhuman??

Yup they are environment friendly but what about efficiency?? It takes ages to go from one place to another. Most people think rickshaws are fastest means of transportation in terai but how fast is 10km/hr??

And i think rickshaws are jus too inhuman. A human or two enjoying the ride in the shade while another human pulling them sweating his breath out in that scorching heat for such a low fare.. how human is that? You ride a rickshaw and the whole time you see sweat dripping from the rickshaw-puller's face, it makes you wonder - what's the price of sweat, BTW?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

FOSS Orientation at PUSET, Biratnagar

I was at Biratnagar for a workshop/training from my job and for FOSS Training program at nearby Dharan. But since guys from Purwanchal University, School of Engineering and Technology (PUSET) were interested, i ended up giving an orientation presentation on FOSS there too.

Prahmod from Third year, Computer Engineering took the lead. The date was set for 2nd July, Wednesday. Actually they were having their final exams running and also had an exam on Wednesday. The exam was to be over at 4pm, the program was scheduled for 4:15pm.

Despite exam, the turnout was nice i should say. Around 30 students were present in the program and were mostly computer and electronics engineering students. There was no projector so i had to display the slides directly from my laptop. The conference hall was also small for the number of participants present there. Most of them stood the whole time.

One funny thing though, some guys already knew me. When i told them my name, some guys were like, aren't you the one from Kantipur FM? They were refering to the Cybertime program on Kantipur FM where i used to represent FOSS Nepal some time back. Felt like a celebrity ;) Really weird! Didn't like it..

Okay, back to presentation. Very few had heard about FOSS before and they were more interested on Linux than FOSS. Maybe the flashy Compiz effects did the trick. But nobody had used linux before. There was a guy named Ranjit (the geek there, as others told me later) who was familiar with Linux theoretically but never had used before. He was skeptic about Linux on being harder to use and softwares being difficult to install. But i showed him the friendliness of Ubuntu and how desktop environments have become simple to use.

The presentation went one hour long and despite exam fatigue and the heat, most of them managed to stay and bombard me with questions. Again, more interest was on Linux than FOSS. FOSS - they kinda get it, but they wanna try out Linux ASAP.

Gave them few CD/DVDs of Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenCD and Nepalinux. Also encouraged them to SHARE.

I think the students are really excited and have shown a strong commitment to form a FOSS Community in the Campus. They are also planning to organize a FOSS/Linux training workshop as soon as their exam is over. Some guys really came forward to take the responsibility of forming the community, namely Prahmod, Himalaya, Parbat and Madan.

I also talked with other computer professionals and found out that computer literacy is pretty good in Biratnagar (I was amazed with the number of cyber cafes here, they're almost everywhere). But nobody knows about FOSS or Linux. I hope the FOSS Community at PUSET works to change this..

More photos are at here.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nepal Bandh, FOSS and the walk to remember

Despite New Nepal promise, Nepal Bandhs (strikes) are here to stay. And the long walks during strikes have become a common devoir. But the walk last thursday is worth remembering and sharing.

I was to go to Biratnagar the next day (friday) and i was supposed to take the last flight of the day. But unfortunately due to bandh and some other reasons the ticket was confirmed for the morning.

And i had to rush.

I had promised the Ubuntu and Fedora CDs to the guys in Biratnagar and Dharan so i had to get them anyhow. Got outta house. Previously arranged gtg with Shankur was cancelled too. I had to collect: Fedora CDs from Prabin, Ubuntu CDs from Suraj, Nepalinux CDs from MPP and Ubuntu Apt-on DVD from Surmandal.

Four people to meet and it was already 5 in the evening. I was freakin out already but still started walkin. Met Shankur in Old-baneshowr; we three went to New Baneshowr to meet Prabin. He was with Fedora CDs (from Fedora release party). Prabin gave me a lift upto Shankhamul Bridge on his scooty. Walked from there upto MPP. Met Dayaram dai. Nepalinux CDs were already out of stock so he'd burned me few DVDs. Got that from him and also few Open CDs. Called Suraj and asked him to come to MPP with Ubuntu CDs.

APTonDVD remaining. Called Surmandal but the DVD was still not done. Waited for him for a while. Almost dark, we finally met. Still had to burn the DVD. And can you believe? We did it on the footpath of Pulchowk with a super-stinky dog sleeping beside us.

Surmandal dropped me upto New Baneshowr on his bike. Walked from there again. And then it rained! It was already 9pm i guess, so no question of stopping. I jus tried to enjoy the rain. Back home totally wet and tired but i had a bag full of CD/DVDs to distribute at Dharan and Biratnagar.

Guys from Dharan / Biratnagar, if you are reading this, i jus wanna let you know that i've done my best to help u guys. You better adore FOSS and spread it all over your place. Plz dont let me down.. ;)

My Firefox family

It does feel good that to say that everybody in my family uses Firefox.

My mom n sis share a laptop which i maintain, so obviously has Firefox. I wonder if my mom even knows whether any other browsers exist! But i had no idea about my dad.

But turns out he's also a Firefox user. I'd suggested him Firefox long time ago, but had no idea whether he was using it or not. But last time he downloaded Firefox 3 (thanx to my own blog), it screwed up Flash on his laptop and he was askin me for help.

And then he revealed that he uses Firefox all the time. Out of curiosity i asked him why.

"It's fast", he said.

I've always believed that it's the quality that makes FOSS so ahead of others and now i have a pretty good proof too. I still have a long way to go to convert the OS in my dad n mom's laptop to Linux, but at least Firefox is also a big feat to me.