Shit Happens. (Or how to recover a lost parition)

Few days ago I decided I wanted to re-install Windows. There was nothing particularly wrong with my system, just that I prefer a squeaky clean machine (thanks to my OCD) and also I couldn't get Xilinx to run correctly, so I figured doing a fresh install might help.

It didn't.

The point being, anyone who's installed Windows on a machine that already has Ubuntu, would know that it erases the Master Boot Record (MBR). In other words, you won't be presented with the GRUB menu, so you won't be able to boot into Ubuntu again. This is a very well documented issue, and the simple workaround is to pop in a Live CD and reinstall GRUB. You can find out more about that here or here.

But turns out the guys at Microsoft have worse things in store.

Tip : Using Ubuntu's globalmenu to get to your files faster

Here's a short tip for Ubuntu users that might help you get to your files faster.

When I was on Ubuntu 10.10, I used a Docky setup where I had two docks – one main dock at the bottom which had all my running programs and pinned apps, and another one on the right where I had my bookmarked folders and mounted volumes.

Starting with Ubuntu 11.04, the default interface is Unity, which doesn't allow you to move its 'launcher', and you can't pin folders to the launcher either (apart from the default nuatilus icon which takes you to your home folder). However, Unity does inlcude a feature called the globalmenu – wherein the menu for any active application shows up on the top panel, and is hidden unless you mouse over it.

When you're on your desktop, a quick mouseover reveals the regular Nautilus menu, which includes a very handy 'Places' menu. It houses all of your Gtk bookmarks along with some other important folders you might want to access. So whenever you want to access specific files or folders on your hard drive, instead of first opening the home folder and navigating your way through nautilus, just use the 'Places' dropdown menu – it'll get you there quicker !

Tip : Peeling the cover off cheese cubes

If you’re like me and believe that adding cheese to anything increases its awesomeness 100X, then you’ll love this tip.

Use a knife and cut the cube in half. Just peel the cover off using the edge along which you’ve just made the cut. It’ll come off all in one piece and you won’t have to worry about cleaning up those tiny shreds of plastic. Ta-da !

Note : I learnt this tip at a dhaba, while waiting for my Cheese Kulcha. Needless to say, it was heavenly.

Apps for the 'unsmart' phone

The other day I was searching for some java applications for my Nokia phone, when I found this neat little app called 'Snaptu'. What it is, is basically a placeholder for other apps, including popular social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), your favourite tech blogs (Mashable, TechCrunch, Ars Technica and LifeHacker), sports updates, news, weather and pretty much anything else you would want to be informed of.

Now the beauty of this app, is that :

  1. It's cross-platform and runs on most mid-range phones, so you don't need to be sporting the latest QWERTY or touchscreen device to use it.
  2. It's completely free of cost.
  3. All the 'apps' have very elegant, clean interfaces, focussing on usability.

The third point is probably the most important. What I mean is, that these apps are standalone applications, not just links to their respective websites. So if you're using say, the Facebook app, you'll see a nice home screen with large icons telling you about your notifications, messages, requests etc. Similarly, the twitter app makes tweeting, replying, searching, following and all your twitter activities really simple. Same goes for the blogs, where you'll see all recent posts' topics in a highly-readable interface; click on it and you can access the whole article.

While on the topic of mobile apps, also check out eBuddy and Nimbuzz – both are multi-protocol chat clients for your mobile device, both are cross platform, free and support all popular chat accounts. Go ahead and give these a try, you'll be surprised with what your phone is capable of !

Summer of 2011

I've decided to start reading again. A good book can keep you occupied for days or even weeks at end ! I was reading ‘Delhi is not Far’ by Ruskin Bond on the way to CST, and that really brightened up my journey ! He's got this great quality; his writing has a flair and a texture which induces a a lot of positivity. Especially when he writes about his childhood, or the stories set in the hills of Mussorie. I picked up an old copy of ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy - that’ll be my next read. (King's Circle has a good collection of second hand books, including novels, magazines and textbooks ! )

I restrung my old acoustic guitar and I've decided to learn to play the acoustic guitar properly this time, I’m pretty bad at it. I’m also looking for some new music to learn / listen to this summer, so if you've got any recommendations, please leave a comment at the end of this post :)

A friend pointed out to me that I worry a lot, without any reason. It's probably true, and I'm gonna try and chill out for a bit this summer. There's really no point in unnecessarily moping over the future, over-analyzing things, or arriving at premature conclusions. What happens in the process, is we end up completely losing sight of the present in anticipation of something better or worse in the future. So don't let your anxiety get to you or take you down. Live in the present, deal with it, enjoy it, and move on ! Look forward to what each day has to offer, and every now and then, slow down a little, sit back, and disconnect yourself from the hullabaloo of everyday life. Try to see the brighter side of everything, be happy !

Canonical's latest offering to the world of FOSS.

NOTE : This post is NOT a review, as there are plenty of them out there. It’s more of a discussion on the direction in which Ubuntu seems to be heading in.

If you're an avid Ubuntu user and follow its development closely, you'd know that Canonical's  newest offering - Ubuntu 11.04 christened ‘Natty Narwhal’ is creating quite a stir. It sports a completely redesigned user-interface, a departure from the familiar GNOME 2.x which has been the de-facto standard for most distros out there. Called ‘Unity’, the new desktop environment has been exported from Ubuntu's netbook offering, coupled with Compiz (instead of mutter) as a compositing manager.

All major changes are met with equal amounts of acceptance and opposition. Many have argued over the lack of customizability and more importantly, stability that Unity suffers from. Many have made up their minds to switch back to the traditional GNOME 2.32 desktop at the earliest opportunity. But amidst all the hype surrounding it, let's take a minute to put ourselves in Canonical's shoes.

Every new release brings with it higher expectations, and developers are faced with the task of giving existing users ample reasons to upgrade and also to prove exciting enough to draw in first-time users. While Ubuntu 10.04 LTS saw major changes both in terms of software as well as appearance, 10.10 focused mainly on minor fixes and stability improvements. Maverick Meerkat was brilliant for what it was, but I do believe that development on the GNOME 2.x desktop had reached a certain saturation limit.

They turned to the Unity shell, which had been previously implemented on the Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and tried to adapt it to suit the regular desktop user's needs. For what it's worth, I think Unity is a brilliant idea. One aspect I find particularly appealing is that Unity seems to be slightly oriented towards touch-devices. The launcher and the larger icons in the Unity shell make for a great touch UI , and since the rest of the world is becoming increasingly touch sensitive, it seems to be a move in the right direction.

(On a side note, another reason for abandoning GNOME might be the introduction of GNOME 3.0, which apart from its many flaws, has been marred by delays and won’t see the light of day until later this year. Some distros like RedHat’s Fedora, have decided to give it a go anyway. But then again, Fedora has been known to be a melting pot of the latest, cutting-edge software in the FOSS community.)

Moreover, the drastic overhaul gives Ubuntu a chance to revamp and completely re-invent itself. The idea of starting from scratch, of starting from a clean slate is terribly exciting since it opens up a whole bunch of new possibilities. Agreed, the final build that we see may not be as stable as 10.10 or even 10.04, but I think Canonical deserves some credit for their effort. They've had to engineer many major design changes, and in doing so they've introduced many nifty features, which will go a long way in simplifying and streamlining the overall user experience. We will, of course, be seeing some expected changes, such as some newer apps replacing old ones (Banshee/Rhythmbox, LibreOffice/OpenOffice) as well as updates to many existing ones (Firefox 4, Ubuntu One, and even the Linux Kernel - 2.6.38).

Unity 11.04 won't be a flawless product, in the sense that it might come with it's share of bugs, which are expected out of any product being tried for the first time. Canonical is aware of this, and has decided to include the standard GNOME 2.32 as a fallback option. However, their confidence in Unity is reflected in the fact that 11.10 (Oneric Ocelot) will NOT ship with the GNOME environment, the standard install will include only Unity.

Personally, I'm very excited about the direction in which things seem to be heading. Ubuntu is being redone, and I think in the long run it will prove very beneficial to Ubuntu's target audience - novices and Windows converts. While Natty may not be the most rock-solid release yet, I think it marks a very significant landmark in the evolution of Ubuntu and many related distros.  When computers and computer-software seem to be evolving at such a blinding pace, why not Ubuntu ?

What’s your Sunday morning song ?

“Sunrise , Sunrise
Couldn't tempt us if it tried
Cuz the afternoon's already come and gone “

- Sunrise, Norah Jones

Think of a typical Sunday morning, when you can afford to lie in, and the only thing that can draw you out of bed is a hot, strong cup of coffee and the bundle of Sunday newspapers with their colourful supplements, just waiting to be devoured. The very thought of having an entire day stretched out in front of you, with absolutely nothing to do ! (A cricket match, perhaps ?) No obligations, no responsibilities, a blank to-do list - you get the picture...

What’s playing on your stereo at this time ? Do you have a special ‘Sunday Morning’ song ? Or are you a radio person, with a chirpy RJ and her ‘Good Morninggggggggg Mumbai’, telling you what a bright and cheery day it is ?

Here are three of mine, off the top of my head :

1. Sunrise - Norah Jones
2. Why Georgia - John Mayer ( “...kind of morning that lasts all afternoon”)
3. Banana Pancakes - Jack Johnson

The last one’s a very recent addition, thanks to a friend :)

So I’m a pretty lazy guy, like you might have guessed :D

Nothing in particular

Note : I wrote this on the way back to Goa from Mumbai last week. It's also my first 'random' post ! :)

There’s a strange romance associated with train journeys isn’t there ? I’m not a frequent train traveller, but I’ve always found the journey very comforting, not just comfortable. There’s something very reassuring about the way you can just stretch your legs and relax , watch the countryside float by, the constant chatter of co-passengers... Without consciously realizing it, you end up building a bond with the fellow passengers in your coupe, which I don’t see happening elsewhere. Add to that some great music, and you’ve really got something going !

I’ve got one eye outside, watching a blur of stations fly past. I think we just passed Dadar.

I love Mumbai, and sorely miss the hustle and bustle of the metropolis when I’m away. On a semi-related note, watch Dhobi Ghat if you haven’t; it’s a great movie.

I’ve got Bombay Rain playing on my iPod. It’s a beautiful song, very melancholic but therapeutic at the same time. The verse reminds me of some turbulent, swirly shape, like a confused jet of water.

We just crossed Thane, which means we’re not within the city limits anymore.

It’s quite fitting that Bombay Rain is the last track on the album isn’t it ?

Getting Started With Ubuntu Linux : Installation (I)

(NOTE : If you're visiting my blog for the first time, take a look at this first)

Now that you've decided to give Ubuntu a shot, here's a pretty simple guide on how to go about it.
One very unique but incredibly useful feature is the concept of ‘Live Media’. What it essentially means is, that you can try out Ubuntu (and most other distros) directly off a CD or a USB stick, without touching your hard drive. So you can access pretty much all the features of a fully featured OS without writing a singly byte of data onto your hard drive. It allows you to gain familiarity with the User Interface, and decide for yourself if splitting your hard drive is really worth it. (There’s a mild Horcrux reference in there ;) )
This is supposed to be a very generic guide, there are loads of detours one can take, depending on how old/recent your system is and your personal preferences. It also focuses on the Ubuntu Desktop/Netbook Edition, I have no idea what the Ubuntu Server Edition is like. I’ve split up this guide into two parts because of it’s size; since being the first truly ‘technical’ post I couldn’t afford to be brief.

Why Linux ?

Although I don't want to turn this into a fully technical blog, I couldn't resist writing another post about my Oh-so-lovely Ubuntu - so bear with me on this one ! After a brief introduction into the world of Linux, I'll now try to win you over by telling you why you should use it. So here goes :
Why you should make the switch :

Ubuntu 101

I recently volunteered for an LUG installfest. It was a deeply satisfying, almost spiritual experience, watching some hundred-odd people switching over to the Linux way of doing things. One of my friends overheard me explaining its merits and advantages to a junior, and he said I'd make a great Linux salesperson. (I'm not sure how one sells something that's free of cost, but that's another issue) But this provided an impetus that this blog required, so you'll find loads of linux tips, tutorials throughout. Most of them will be specific to Ubuntu-based distros, since it's the most widely used. So here goes my first ever blogpost, an introduction into the world of Linux. Happy Reading !


I've been toying with the idea of starting a blog for quite a while now, though I don't know exactly why. Maybe I've started missing those DePP write-ups ? (Seriously, no) So I intend this to be an accumulation of my interests and everything that fascinates (and annoys) me. So here's to good music, good food, good coffee and Linux !