Sunday, May 30, 2010

Minimalism on a Tablet

I've been experimenting with minimalist environments lately. While I'm a KDE guy all the way, I do have a tablet that even with KDE 4.4 on Slackware, it feels a little sluggish and gets ~ 2 hours of battery. I'm a bit of a perfectionist so onward I search for the perfect tablet PC configuration.

I'm no expert, but I've been using Blackbox as a window manager on a Gentoo system and have been quite pleased with the results. My average cpu while idle is 0-1% and currently my ram is sitting at 7% usage, or 76 MB out of 1 GB. (Courtesy of Conky, a great system monitor app)

Computer stats:

IBM Thinkpad X41

1.5 GHz LV Centrino (Pentium M)

1 GB DDR2 Ram (probably 533MHz or 667 MHz)

Intel GMA 910 integrated graphics chipset

ICH6 Intel Motherboard

1024x768 px screen resolution

Wacom Penabled

Functionality varies, and a minimal system isn't for everyone. I just compiled bmpanel (which looks great with transparency) for my bottom panel. Right click is the menu and after installation of a program, it must be regenerated. Some things have to be configured by hand and to use awesome programs from KDE and GNOME, both sets of libraries must be installed which amounts to ~70-90 MB for KDE and about ~33 MB for GNOME.

One program I would recommend for tablets is the GTK-based character input application, Cellwriter. I've only played with it currently, but it looks good. Once I add some script functionality to get the screen to rotate, a system tray, and a customized monitor layout, all will be good. Will update with screen shots later.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The FreeWorld Project *

It's time for the pre-introduction (unveiling) of a project years in the making. With an intermittant design phase of 7+ years and insight as a developer and programmer, PeonDevelopments presents a strong probability of a new multiplatform Java-based FOSS application dedicated to providng the greatest 2D Role Playing Game Engine to all Gamers, Casual Players, Developers, Marketers, Businesses and Educational Institutions interested.

Our mission statement is To provide developers and non-experienced users with a modular and FLOSS role playing game engine that performs reasonably well on multiple platforms and aids in the production of dynamic and advanced battle systems for the purpose of relating a story, plot or series of meaningful actions.

As the project is not mature and currently in vapourware status, I would like to remind readers that documentation is being developed to lay groundwork for the structure of the Engine. Expect a release of such documentation in 3 months of the posting of this article at the latest.

I will be posting a road map at a later date. I wish to produce a working proof-of-concept prototype with Installer before allowing others to work on developing this project. With that in mind, I have big expectations of this project and hope it will fill a niche that currently is not being filled to the extent it could be.

Projects such as Sphere do exist but are not maintained or as powerful as I want. More updates at a later stage.

Current documentaiton progress: At 40 pages. Expect 5x that.

* Not the official release name of the project, used as a placeholder

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Friday, May 21, 2010


So as I'm sitting here at the table, drinking my light-roast coffee and feeling pretty good about life, it's time to let my readers know (all 1 of them, me) about some cool techy stuff that my mind is on.

The above link is to the changelog for kernel 2.6.32 (which I currently use) and its improvements. Notably, some great improvements have been done in virtualization as with KSM (Kernel Shared Memory), a daemon process goes through page files determining which files are the same and merges them to reduce memory usage. That in itself is great but it doesn't put anything in perspective. Until you read the following:

"The result is a dramatic decrease in memory usage in virtualization environments. In a virtualization server, Red Hat found that thanks to KSM, KVM can run as many as 52 Windows XP VMs with 1 GB of RAM each on a server with just 16 GB of RAM."

If an XP machine was to be run under minimum requirements, using 128 MB of Ram, you'd get a barely functional OS and 52 of them would use a total of 6.656 GB of Ram. I've used XP in a VirtualBox VM using 512 MB of Ram and got some decent performance out of it. (Ran SAP and Borland Together in it; not at the same time) So assuming that each user is limited to a 512 MB Windows XP Pro OS, you'd be looking at a total of 26.624 GB of Ram required if these were dedicated machines. By sharing memory and having 52 XP machines running on a bare-bones Hardware Virtualization using Red Hat, each OS would require 307 MB of Ram if it were dedicated, but as it's sharing memory, the end result would mean more Ram to use. Assuming having shared memory resulted in each OS feeling as though it had 512 MB of Ram, that's a savings of ~10 GB of Ram, or an efficiency of 166.4% (2/3rds greater) over dedicated Ram resources.

And that's just one kernel improvement. I wonder how Windows kernel is doing in comparison.

The 2.6.32 kernel also has scheduler improvements in its CFQ low-latency mode.

Some people have had issues with KDE's Akonadi, getting a "Not Registered At DBUS" message. From my limited experience in dealing with this error, it generally only happens when trying to use an external SQL database. I believe that this is an upstream issue, as Akonadi is constantly being worked on during this time and big things are expected of it. (This has been tested on a KDE 4.3.5 and 4.4.2 system) The internal database doesn't seem to have this issue; it works at least, though sometimes produces a warning message. It may take a few more releases before this bug is dealt with,

In one Fedora forum, it seems that using an external sql database works under the root user. I wouldn't recommend this route.

Others say that it's an AppArmour issue, that it is blocking akonadi. It seems odd, as I still got this issue using Gentoo which doesn't have that firewall installed. The developer team which worked on it has been layed off as well.

There are some issues with Gentoo's KDE Unstable 4.4.2 release, though that's to be expected.

Sometimes closing Kontact does not completely close it and attempting to run it again will have no effect. The process must be killed before it can be sucessfully launched again.

Kile (2.1 beta 2 & 3) seems to have an issue where closing the program results in an unexpected error minutes later or if the program is left open, unattended for too long. It doesn't seem to impact my work (autosave it on) and is more of an annoyance. Still, it's a great program for working in LaTeX.

Umbrello is a nice UML modeller program, but I get segfaults semi-regularly. I'm not sure why that is and I still use it. This doesn't seem restricted to the unstable KDE release, but I thought I'd point it out anyway.

Some final thoughts on KDE 4.4.2: It's faster, looks better, and has more functionality. I'm getting used to tabbed file browsing and I like where the KDE team is headed.

A special thanks to Aaron J. Seigo, a KDE guru and expert. This guy is real inspiration and I hope to do some work on KDE in the near future.

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Long Weekend

In writing the title of this post, the song by Scooter comes to mind.

Well it's the weekend, for me at least. Currently jobless and bored, it'll be a great geeky weekend indeed. In fact, my joblessness has become a catalyst for getting more involved in my personal work.

School is out and I went out yesterday to congradulate my fellow graduates from college (though I, for reasons none too serious, did not graduate this at the end of this year) and wish them the best. Once school was out, my body and mind did a crash nose-dive into my bed. For about a week or two I was sleeping approximately 12 hours a day, catching up on all those late nights/all nighters spent on our Capstone Project. (2-semeter long enterprise-level software project with proper documentation and installation)

Back to the topic at hand. Once I recovered from my exhaustion, I started back into the world of programming and computing. Re-built my resume from scratch using a personal custom design (in Draw program none-the-less) and managed to hook in one possible job prospect of which I'm only now getting the full force of what I've done.

As an aside, draw programs that I really recommend for GNU/Linux users are in fact, Draw and Krita for wonderful paint/publishing works and KolourPaint for the equivalent of Window's paint.exe program. Not much experience with The Gimp, but once they implement tabs and one window (I think there's a plugin for that, photogimp or something) then I'll go for a more professional bit.

So I met one of the management team at the Calgary Open Source Software Festival (2010) as he was a speaker there. Had a little chat afterwards and got a business card. Weeks later when I got around to applying for jobs, I mentioned this past experience and added a cover letter. Well, about a week later the company and I touched bas. They are very busy, so I am quite lucky to have gotten the attention I did; And while they don't have many positions open, it's quite possible that they will have room to train me in multiple areas and the *best* part is, they may create a System Administration position later on and have me in charge of that!

Now, the mere thought of the potential here is exciting for me. As I mentioned in the interview and will mention here now,

"In 5 years I see myself as a Software Developer. In 25 years, I see myself as a Senior System Administrator."

Basically saying that while I'm quite a geek and willing to do any odd jobs including software development of which I truly enjoy, I have a career goal and in one near-coincidental meeting (assuming I actually believe in those), my entire life as a geek may have been set up perfectly. It's much too early to say for sure and anything could get in the way of this. Nothing is conclusive and I have alternate paths if this blows up. But to be taken seriously, me, a young 22-year old whippersnapper as a possible dba / system admin, this is almost unprecedented! Basically this entire series of events rubbed my ego to the hilt. =)

Best part of all: It's mainly GNU/Linux work. Right up my alley.

So what am I going to do this weekend? Catch up on System Administration tools and information. Read a book. Play around with a project of mine. Catch up on tech news feeds. Learn some more C++ and start on Python. Build a Plasmoid. Something, anything productive. And I'm going to enjoy it.

We'll see where this leads. God willing, everything will work out in the end. It always does though, even if it's not how I want it to. But even in my darkest hours, I become stronger and more knowledgable so I don't see any downside to being rejected as a Sys Admin either.

I hope everyone enjoys their weekend.

- NP

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