Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year: Media Noche and Computing (Jan 01 09)

My family usually spends New Year's Eve at home with us, sharing the traditional Filipino media noche, the midnight dinner of spaghetti, queso de bola, Filipino tsokolate, and fruits. The spaghetti was vegetarian, tomato and mushroom with semola spaghettini. I got the cheap Balducci semola, which is almost half the price of San Remo. For the non-vegetarians we had hotdogs and salami on a separate platter, far away from the vegetarians. We also had vegetarian hotdogs and ham, which my wife bought from Harvesters' Veggie Mart, the vegetable store and bakeshop next to Bodhi Vegetarian on Banawe Street in Quezon City. My neighbor, the Oafallas, gave chicken cordon blue and Korean noodles, so the non-vegetarians had two additional dishes.

Before dinner, we exchanged gifts. Every year, we had this problem of drawing names of the family member for whom we buy our annual Christmas gift. The problem is there were too few members of our family: wife Dulce and myself, son Paul and wife Mia, daughters Karen and Abigail. (This year, Abigail is in France on a Mundus Forum scholarship, so she missed our media noche and gift giving). The chance that we draw our own names was so great that we had to redraw many times until we got a satisfactory draw. This year though, Karen discovered Elfster:

and Elfster solved our problem for us. Elfster not only drew unique names for everyone, but also Elfster gave everyone a chance to specify the gift she/he wanted. If you have a small family like ours, you should check out Elfster.

After dinner, I told Paul and Mia that Karen and I are working on a tiling problem that we intend to present to the 2009 Philippine Computing Science Congress in Siliman University, Dumaguete City:

Mia got Paul interested, and Paul agreed to help. When I showed Paul my notes, he immediately saw a error in my brute force enumeration, which of course, got corrected. The rest of the early morning (after midnight dinner) was spent by my children working on the tiling problem. I believe that this is a good way for a family to spend New Year together.

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ubuntu's New Network Manager Autoconnects to Smart (Dec 27 08)

Ubuntu Intrepid has a new Network Manager that automates the connection to mobile broadband providers Smart, Globe, and Sun. The process of connecting to the dial-up or 3G network has been made simple. First cable your 3G phone to your laptop, then turn the laptop on. After logging in, Network Manager recognizes the 3G connection, and will configure the connection for you, do the auto-dialling, and give you the option of keeping the connection alive. You will be given a list of available providers to choose from, depending on the area where you are located (I think). In my case, the list included Globe, Globe WAP, Smart, and Sun. Since my Nokia 6680 has already been preconfigured with Smart Internet/MMS/etc settings, I chose Smart from the list of choices provided. The connection took only a few seconds, and I had Internet service right away. I was able to check my Ateneo mail and Yahoo mail before things started to go wrong. After a period of use, the connection is dropped and I had to reconnect by clicking on the Network Manager icon on the panel (task bar on top of the screen). This dropping happened several times afterwards, that I got tired, abandoned Network Manager, and reconnected using wvdial instead.

Well, that's so much for Network Manager for me for managing mobile broadband connection. I will stick to wvdial, until I figure out what went wrong.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Big Daddy Laptop: A New Toy (Dec 26 08)

We spent Christmas day in the traditional Christmas party-reunion of the Guillermo clan. Anyone married to, or are children of, or descendants of, or dating any of the Guillermos was there at the Dennis Lim residence in Don Jose Subdivision in Quezon City. There were many people in the party, including the illegitimate wives and children, which just goes to show how democratic and how prolific the Guillermos are. Our Christmas party will not be complete without the gift-giving part. My niece, Marissa Mesa (sorry for the senior moment, but I forgot her married name) gave me a Big Daddy laptop computer, the red thing shown in the pictures above. The actual advertisement on the package says, Big Daddy Solar Powered Desk Top Calculator. Ay calculator pala, akala ko pa naman ay computer! But computer or not, it is still impressive. It comes in size A4, parang US bond paper sa haba at lapad, at ang kapal ay mga isa't kalahating sentimetro, kaya't manipis lang siya. Tamang tama sa malaking daliri tulad ko, at tamang tama rin sa malabo ang mata na tulad ko. Iba na talaga ang tumatanda. Bakit nga pala Tagalog-Ingles ang post ko ngayon? Pasensiya na, bahagi ng senior moments.

Merry Chrsitmas ulit!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Browsing with Smart 3G (Dec 25 08)

I was at McDonald's Banawe (near Orthopedic Hospital) last night, waiting for my wife to get off from work, and browsing the Net while waiting. This McDo branch did not have wifi, so I had to connect to the Net using wvdial (ppp) under Ubuntu. I used my Smart Gold Lite (PHP300.00 / month subscription, consumable) using my Nokia 6680 3G phone. Smart promises 384kbits / sec, but last night, I was getting 70-90 KBytes / sec, which is quite surprising, since I hardly get that kind of speed on my Smart Bro 384kbits / sec microwave link at home. Of course, I am not complaining of this good fortune, and am in fact extremely happy about it.

It must be the season. Merry Christmas, Smart Communications!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas! (Dec 24 08)

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth"

Merry Christmas, and may you have peace and God's blessing today and for the rest of the New Year. For yourself, for your loved ones, for your neighbors, and for the world. God's peace and blessings be on all of us!

Enjoy life, Linux, Leopard, Windows, and everything that's beautiful! Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

MSI Wind keymap for Mac OSX Leopard (Dec 23 08)

The keyboard of the MSI Wind does not have Mac labels, so the new Wind Leopard user will have to get familiar with the Wind-to-Mac keyboard mappings. The ALT key on the Wind keyboard actually corresponds to the COMMAND key on the Mac, and the Windows key on the Wind keyboard corresponds to the OPTION key on the Mac.

So the OPTION-COMMAND-ESCAPE key combination to do a force quit of applications is accomplished on the Wind by using the WINDOWS-ALT-ESCAPE key combination. Also the key combination SHIFT-COMMAND-3 to do a screen shot of the entire desktop is done by the key combination SHIFT-ALT-3. Similarly SHIFT-ALT-4 will do a screenshot of a user-selected portion of the desktop.

It should be simple enough to print two key labels "WINDOWS-OPTION" and "ALT-COMMAND" with gummed backing, and stick them onto the two keys, at least until we get used to the keyboard mapping.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Getting the MSI Wind Webcam to Work under Ubuntu (Dec 22 08)

My MSI Wind triple boots to Windows XP, Mac OSX Leopard, and Ubuntu Intrepid. Since I have been a Linux user (Linux user #5037) since 1993, it is obvious that Ubuntu is my favorite of the three operating systems. So it was quite disappointing when I could not get the proper drivers for Ubuntu for the built-in webcam. What good is Skype when you have no camera?

Fortunately, the MSI website in Taiwan makes available a version of the webcam driver for Suse Linux that works for an older version of the Linux kernel than the one on Ubuntu. Here is the download link:

Uncompressing this zip file gives the following rpm package:


The linux kernel that I am running in Ubuntu is 2.6.27-9-generic, so we see a possible version incompatibility problem. But I proceeded (nevertheless) to install this driver for an older version of the kernel, hoping that it would work for the newer Ubuntu kernel.

First I needed to download "alien", a package for converting Suse/Redhat RPM packages to Ubuntu DEB packages. The following command takes care of the download:

sudo apt-get install alien

If this does not work, you might need to download rpm, rpmlib, libbeecrypt, etc, first, but apt-get is usually intelligent enough to pull in all the dependencies that alien needs.

Next, we use alien to convert from the Suse webcam rpm to a deb package that we can install in Ubuntu. This command takes care of the conversion:

sudo alien -k uvcvideo-kmp-smp-r171_2.6.16.46_0.12-3.1.i586.rpm

This command produces the deb package:


Then all we need to do is install this package:

sudo dpkg -i uvcvideo-kmp-smp_r171_2.6.16.46_0.12-3.1_i386.deb

The lsmod command should show that uvcvideo has been loaded as a driver module:

uvcvideo 62728 0
compat_ioctl32 9344 1 uvcvideo
videodev 41344 1 uvcvideo
v4l1_compat 22404 2 uvcvideo,videodev
video 25104 0
output 11008 1 video

Next we need to download a web camera application. Checking the Net shows that the program "cheese", as in "Say cheese" is a very popular web camera program for Linux. So just go ahead and download it:

sudo apt-get install cheese

On my system, cheese was installed in Applications -> Graphics -> "Cheese Webcam Booth". Now click on that menu item for a proof that your camera works. The enclosed screen shot says it all. Never mind the good looking old man in the picture; just imagine the delicious BK Joe coffee.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Intrepid Leopard XP on My MSI Wind, Part 2 (Dec 20 08)

This is the second installment of my account to install Windows XP (SP3), Ubuntu 8.10, and Mac OS X 86 Leopard 10.5.4 on my brand new MSI Wind U100x, so that this UMPC triple boots to any of the three OSs.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that PC Corner created a 30GB primary partition and installed the default (legally licensed) Windows XP there.

When I got home, I prepared a USB installer for Ubuntu 8.10.  I already have an iso image of Ubuntu 8.10 upgraded with the latest packages, plus development packages of my choice,which include gcc, g++, perl, mysql, etc.  This iso image is available for download from

On my desktop at home, I created the Ubuntu USB thumbdrive installer from the Yebuntu iso image, using the Unetbootin utility, available for download from:

I then booted the MSI Wind using this Ubuntu USB installer.  I created a 30GB primary partition that I reserved for Leopard, a 30GB primary partition for Ubuntu, and the rest of the 160GB I created into logical partitions for Linux swap (4GB swap for my 2GB real memory) and Linux /home.  The installation of Ubuntu proceeded without problems, and the default grub bootloader was installed in the boot sector of /dev/sda.  I then made some desktop reconfiguring to allow me to conveniently use the 1024x600 screen, as mentioned in my previous post.

Next comes the magical moment: the installation of Leopard on the MSI Wind.

First you must buy a license to use Leopard.  In the Philippines,you need to go to any of the Power Mac Centers to buy your license:

A single PC license will cost you a little over PHP7,000.00.  If you are a student or an educator, you can get an academic discount:

and the Leopard license will cost you only PHP6,690.00.  I wish, though, that Apple will sell the license to teachers at ten percent of a public school teacher's salary, or under PHP2,000.00, so that it becomes more affordable to teachers in the third world, like the Philippines. Software licenses should be priced like books, so that students and teachers have not only the freedom, but also the ability, to buy them.

So much for the advocacy.  Now for the hard work.

The original Leopard DVD will not install on the MSI Wind.  Use your favorite torrent program to download the file MSIWindosx86.iso, which is available from many torrent sites on the Net. The 3.5GB iso image took me around two days to download on my 384k SmartBro microwave link. Then you need to burn this file as a DVD image, using your DVD burner.

Now, the MSI Wind does not have a DVD drive, so you need to cable your external DVD drive to a USB port of the Wind. Place the MSIWindosx86 DVD in the DVD drive, and power up the Wind.  Press F11, and select the USB DVD drive as boot device. The Leopard installer will boot.  When you see the [Mac Installer] task bar appear, select [Utilities], and click on [Disk~Utility]. On the left frame, you will be shown the various partitions available for installing Leopard. In my case, the partitions are:

Partition1:  NTFS for WinXP
Partition2:  Linux (free)
Partition3:  Linux (containing Ubuntu)

Now click on Partition2, and click on erase to format the partition.  In the drop-down menu, select the partition type [HFS extended, journaled].  Name the partition with some convenient name, like Leopard, and then click [erase]. Now exit the Disk Utility [click on the red button]. When you reach the final installation screen, click on [Customize], select [Patches], and uncheck the [Kernel] patches, since the kernel patches are for the AMD processor, and will not work with the Atom processor of the Wind. Exit the customize screen, and click on [Install]. The installation will take about 30 minutes or longer.  At the end of the installation, you will be asked to reboot the system. When the system reboots, uncable the DVD drive, and you will be booted into Ubuntu (my default choice, since I am using the grub bootloader).

While in Ubuntu, you need to fix the boot order. Go to /boot/grub, and edit the file menu.lst

cd /boot/grub
sudo gedit menu.lst

At the end of the file menu.lst add the following entries for Leopard:

title Mac OS X 86 Leopard (Darwin 10.5.4)
rootnoverify (hd0,1)
chainloader +1

In the entry "rootnoverify (hd0,1)", the device (hd0,1) stands for /dev/sda2, where Leopard is installed.  Next look for the line with the entry


Comment out this line by preceding it with a sharp sign, so that it now looks like:


Now save the file menu.lst, and reboot the system.  When the system reboots, you will be given a grub menu from which you can select which of the three operating systems to boot:
Windows XP, Ubuntu, or Leopard.

If you select Leopard, you will get an initial welcoming screen where you can enter your user data. After this, your Leopard system is ready to use. You will discover that the wireless card and the web camera do not work.

Just recently, Realtek Taiwan made available the Leopard driver for the RTL8187SE wireless adapter on the MSI Wind,you can download the driver from RapidShare:

Now you can truly enjoy your MSI Wind Mac Mini Leopard 10.5.4!

Please get your legitimate Mac license, from the URLs that I mentioned above. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Intrepid Leopard XP on My MSI Wind (Dec 17 08)

My wife told me that my Dell Inspiron 6000 was too heavy at over two kilos, for an old man like me to be toting around. So I got myself an MSI Wind U100x, which weighs just a little over one kilo. This Wind had the famous Atom N270 processor that runs at 1.6GHz, 2GB memory, 160GB SATA disk, six-cell battery providing about 3.5 hours at this configuration, and cost me about PHP21,500.00 at PC Corner on Gilmore Street in Quezon City.

I asked the store technician to install the default WinXP Home (SP3) on a 30GB partition. This is the Microsoft-licensed OEM version that ships with the Wind.

When I got home, I prepared an Ubuntu 8.10 installer on a 2GB USB thumbdrive, using my Yebuntu installer, a Ubuntu installer with development packages and manpages-dev and various developer documentation. Yebuntu can be downloaded from:

Aside from the 30GB primary partition containing Windows, I created a 30GB primary partition for Mac OSX Leopard, a 30GB primary partition for Linux root, and the rest of the 160GB as extended partitions for Linux swap and Linux /home. Ubuntu 8.10 installed without problems, except that I had to get the Realtek 8187se WiFi driver from

Ubuntu runs fine on the Wind. I had to remove the bottom panel and retained only the top panel (task bar), since the 1024x600 resolution is too little for two panels. But one top panel is fine. I added to the top panel a Window Selector, to select from active windows using a menu. If you add a Window List instead, you can select from active windows using buttons, but the top panel becomes too crowded with buttons that you can not read the button text anymore, making them useless for switching between windows.

Next I will describe how I installed Mac OS X 86 Leopard 10.5.4 on the MSI Wind. More on the next post.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Installing Microsoft truetype fonts in Ubuntu

A. Create the Microsoft truetype directory in Ubuntu:

sudo mkdir /usr/share/fonts/truetype/microsoft

B. Copy the ttf and TTF fonts from the Windows Fonts directory into the directory created in step 1. Here ${NTFSHOME} is the mountpoint in Ubuntu of your Windows filesystem (when using ntfs-3g). Otherwise, just copy all the ttf/TTF files from Windows onto USB thumbdrive and transfer to Ubuntu:

cd /usr/share/fonts/truetype/microsoft
sudo cp ${NTFSHOME}/WINDOWS/Fonts/{*ttf,*TTF} .

C. Make all the ttf/TTF files readable by everyone (when copied from USB it is probably rwx by root and no permissions for anyone else--this is bad):

sudo chmod 644 *ttf *TTF

D. Install the ttmkfdir package. Omit this step if you already have it:

sudo apt-get install ttmkfdir

E. Create the fonts.scale and fonts.dir files in the microsoft truetype directory:

cd /usr/share/fonts/truetype/microsoft
sudo ttmkfdir *ttf *TTF
sudo cp fonts.scale fonts.dir

F. Recreate the font-cache files for X font server

sudo fc-cache -f -v

G. Start OpenOffice writer and check if you can access the fonts "Times New Roman" and "Arial". If you can, then you are done. Congratulations!


Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh Unix, Oh Linux! (Dec 02 08)

I have read three nonfiction novels about Unix/Linux, and I thoroughly enjoyed all three. For someone who reads only Tom Clancy, Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, George Martin, Orson Scott Card, Terry Brooks, and similar fantasy authors, this is saying something heavy and important about these Unix/Linux stories.

First is the novel "Quarter Century of Unix" by Peter Salus. Here Salus talks about how the CSRG folks Kernighan, Ritchie, and friends at Bell Labs wrote the Unix operating system in the early 1970s. Next is the novel "Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder. This is a suspense thriller about how programmers at Data General (now nonexistent, like Digital Equipment Corporation) ported the Unix OS to their new 32bit minicomputer. The third one is the almost-autobiography "Just For Fun" in which Linus Torvalds talks to writer David Diamond about why and how he wrote the very popular Linux OS, a modern Unix-workalike, now sweeping the computer world like a storm.

I recommend these three novels to all computer science students, and even to normal folks. They are all very nice reads, and they give you an idea about all the excitement that surrounds the life of a programmer.