Tuesday, 16 December 2008

First time on Fedora Live CD

I have been using Fedora GNU/Linux since it's first release and have worked on almost all versions of Fedora. But I never got a chance to test or use the Live CD version of Fedora. It is this post(appeared in fedora-india mailing list) that tempted me to download and install the Live CD version of Fedora.

The booting procedure was straight forward and plymouth(the graphical boot loader for Fedora) is really fast. It's much faster when compared with Ubuntu boot proces, but the desktop preparation process took more time than Ubuntu.

For testing purpose I used the Malayalam interface. It's really cool to see the traditional Malayalam font(Meera) on the desktop interface.The default input scheme, SCIM, supports four input methods - inscript, itrans, mozhi and swanalekha. Here is a screenshot

The Fedora Live CD contains almost all of the popular applications such as Mozilla Firefox, Pidgin Instant Messenger, Transmission BitTorrent Client, Totem Movie Player, RhythmBox Music Player, GIMP, Gthumb, Gedit, SCIM, etc.. But it's really disappointing that OpenOffice.org is not included in the Live CD version, instead Abiword is included. Abiword is a great word processor, but it's not at all a complete office suite.

Live CDs are commonly used by end users who only requires a web browser, instant messenger or an Office suite. It may be nice if the Fedora community takes steps to include OpenOffice in the Live CDs so that it can gain more popularity among end users.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

റെഡ്മണ്ട് ഭൂവില്‍

എന്തൊക്കെ തമാശകളാണ് കാണേണ്ടി വരുന്നത്. സാമൂഹ്യ അടിത്തറയുള്ള സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയറുകള്‍ക്ക് ഉപയോക്തൃ സമൂഹങ്ങള്‍ (users group) ഉണ്ടാകുന്നത് സ്വാഭാവികമാണു്. അതിന്റെ ഉപയോഗവും വികസന രീതിയും അതു ആവശ്യപ്പെടുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു. എന്നാല്‍, ഒരു കുത്തക കമ്പനിക്കും(സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയറിനു അല്ല) കേരളത്തില്‍ യൂസേഴ്സ് ഗ്രൂപ്പ ഉണ്ടായിരിക്കുന്നു. കെ-മഗ്(k-mug) എന്ന പേരില്‍ 2001 മുതല്‍ കേരളത്തില്‍ നിലവിലുണ്ടായിരുന്ന വിവിധ ഗ്രൂപ്പുകളുടെ ലയനം കഴിഞ്ഞ മാസം കോഴിക്കോട്ടു നടന്നു. കൂടുതല്‍ വിവരങ്ങള്‍ ഇവിടെ.

കെ-മഗിന്റെ ഉത്ഘാടനം നിര്‍വഹിച്ചത് കേരളത്തില്‍ സോഷ്യലിസ്റ്റ് ആശയങ്ങള്‍ ഘോരഘോരം പ്രസംഗിക്കുന്ന, ശ്രീ എം.പി വീരേന്ദ്രകുമാര്‍ എം.പി യാണെന്നതു ഏറ്റവും വലിയ വിരോധഭാസമായി. സോഷ്യലിസവും മുതലാളിത്തവും തമ്മിലുള്ള അഭേദ്യമായ ബന്ധത്തിന്റെ പേരിലായിരിക്കും അദ്ദേഹം ഇതിനു കൂട്ടു നിന്നത് എന്നു വിചാരിക്കുന്നു. സ്വതന്ത്ര സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയറിനെ സിപിഐ(എം) പരസ്യമായി അനുകൂലിക്കുന്നു എന്നു ശ്രീ. സീതാറാം എച്ചൂരി പ്രസ്താവിച്ച (ഇവിടെ നോക്കൂ) സ്ഥിതിക്ക് സഖാക്കളായ ബഹുമാനപ്പെട്ട മേയര്‍ ശ്രീ. എം ഭാസ്കരനും, കോഴിക്കോട് എംഎല്‍എ ശ്രീ. പ്രദീപ്കുമാറും മൈക്രോസോഫ്റ്റിന്റെ(അഥവ കെ-മഗിന്റെ) കോഴി ബിരിയാണി തിന്നാന്‍ പോയത് നാണക്കേട് തന്നെയാണു്. മാത്രമല്ല, ഇടതുപക്ഷം അംഗീകരിച്ച സംസ്ഥാന ഐടി നയരേഖയുടെ ലംഘനവും.

കോഴി ബിരിയാണി അസ്സലായി എന്നാണു് പങ്കെടുത്തവരുടെ സാക്ഷ്യപ്പെടുത്തല്‍.
"Lunch coupons were given during registration time and K-MUG served Kozhikode Chicken Biriyani and Vegetable Biriyani for the attendees. As per the feedback from participants, lunch was excellent... "

എന്തായാലും അടുത്ത വയലാര്‍ അവാര്‍ഡിനായി ഒരു പുസ്കകം കൂടി നമുക്ക് പ്രതീക്ഷിക്കാം - "റെഡ്മണ്ട് ഭൂവില്‍".


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A Quick Glance at Fedora 10 beta

Note: This article is not a comprehensive review of all the features in Fedora 10 beta.

The Fedora 10 beta or more precisely Fedora 9.92 was released on 30th September 2008. I decided to give it a try using Xen virtualization in Fedora 9, as I don't want to install a "bleeding edge" distro in my desktop. But unfortunately, Fedora 9 has an issue with Xen Virtualization and the only work around was to get it installed through qemu. The documentation at the Fedora wiki is enough to get it started.

However, I had a bad luck with with CD-ROM image, except that I was able to run anaconda. The first thing I noticed is the Malayalam strings in anaconda interface was not properly displayed. I discussed this matter in the IRC channel of SMC, and filed a bug in Redhat Bugzilla. I was also struck with another bug when I tried to disable the installation media and use only the Rawhide repository. The good news is that Fedora developers responded quickly to the two bug reports. Since I didn't bothered to download minimal set of the CD-ROM images, I decided to proceed with netinstall image available at Fedora download server.

A fresh installation attempt using the netinstall image was problematic. But after several failed attempts I could connect to the fedora mirrors and start the installation. The installation took more than 4 hours. All the packages where downloaded from Internet and qemu environment was also slow. At the end anaconda hanged with the message "installing kernel-2.6.xx... ". I just closed the qemu window and boot the newly installed system using the following command:

# qemu fedora.qcow -boot c -net nic -net user -m 512 -localtime -no-kqemu

The graphical boot loader, rhgb has been replaced by Plymouth and if you press ESC key, then you can view the entire boot messages. After several minutes of wait, I was able to login to the new Fedora 10 desktop. may be the virtualized environment degraded the performance of the desktop.

As soon as I logged in, the first major change I noticed is the new Echo-Icon theme. The icon set is great and gave the desktop an elegant look and feel.

Malayalam Support

I was curious about the Malayalam rendering and language support. Fortunately, Malayalam rendering was perfect with the patches from SMC and the new Malayalam font, Meera developed by SMC itself. Mozilla Firefox 3 and OpenOffice.org 3.0 rendered Malayalam perfectly. However, in OpenOffice there were some issues with some complex conjucts. But I won't think that these are used frequently in Malayalam content.

The font size problem which was a major issue in the prior release was resolved and it's really cool to see Malayalam on the desktop without any rendering errors.

Fedora also has 7 other unicode Malayalam fonts - smc-anjalioldlipi, smc-kalyani(previously MalOtf), smc-rachana, smc-raghumalayalam, smc-dhyuthi, samyak-malayalam and lohit-malayalam. However, I'm not sure whether the issues with lohit-malayalam is resolved.

The input method configuration is also very easy. The im-chooser application guided me to configure all the required input methods in different languages. There are 4 Input schemes for Malayalam - inscript, itrans, mozhi and swanalekha.

I think Fedora 10 may be the first GNU/Linux distribution with complete Malayalam rendering and input methods.

Other Applications

Fedora 10 comes loaded with GNOME-2.24 which provides many robust desktop applications. The prominent change is the inclusion of Empathy instant messenger which supports gtalk(voice and video), yahoo and several other IM protocols.

I was also curious about the webkit powered Epiphany. But the webkit switch was not complete and the version 2.24 still uses the Gecko engine. Visit here for more details.

This release also has better webcam support through the GNOME application called Cheese.

There is also some menu re-arrangements in the new desktop. The Dictionary application have been moved to the Office section, earlier it was included in the Accessories section.

To summarize, I believe that Fedora 10 is a distribution which is worth waiting for. Here is the schedule. The stable release is planned for November 2008.

Friday, 5 September 2008

സി-ഡാക്കിന്റെ ക്രൂരകൃത്യങ്ങള്‍

കഴിഞ്ഞ ആഴ്ചയില്‍ ഇന്ത്യയിലെ സ്വതന്ത്രസോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍ സമൂഹത്തില്‍ സജീവ ചര്‍ച്ചയ്ക്കു ഹേതുവായത് ഒരു കേന്ദ്ര സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ സ്ഥാപനമാണ്. കമ്പ്യൂട്ടറിലും അനുബന്ധ മേഖലകളിലും ഗവേഷണവും വികസനവും (Research & Development) നടത്തുന്ന സി-ഡാക് ചില സ്വതന്ത്രസോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയറുകളില്‍ നടത്തുന്ന വിഭജനമാണ്(forking) ചര്‍ച്ചാവിഷയമായത്.

സി-ഡാക്കിന്റെ ചെന്നൈ കേന്ദ്രം ഗ്നോം പണിയിടത്തിനു വേണ്ടി മലയാളം അടക്കമുള്ള ഇന്ത്യന്‍ ഭാഷകളില്‍ തര്‍ജ്ജമ ചെയ്തതാണ് എറ്റവും ഒടുവില്‍ വാര്‍ത്തയായത്. സി-ഡാക് പരിഭാഷപ്പെടുത്തി എന്നു അവകാശപ്പെടുന്ന പല ഫയലുകളും സ്വതന്ത്ര മലയാളം കമ്പ്യൂട്ടിങ് എന്ന കൂട്ടായ്മ മുന്‍പ് ചെയ്തിട്ടുള്ളതാണ്. പല വാക്കുകള്‍ക്കും വിചിത്രമായ തര്‍ജ്ജമയാണ് സി-ഡാക്കിലെ പരിഭാഷകര്‍ കണ്ടെത്തിയിരിക്കുന്നത്. ഏറ്റവും നല്ല ഉദാഹരണം Free Software എന്നതിന്റെ തര്‍ജ്ജമയാണ്. "സൌജന്യ സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍" എന്നാണ് സി-ഡാക്ക് കണ്ടെത്തിയ വാക്ക്. സി-ഡാക്കിന്റെ ഭാഷയോടുള്ള വെല്ലുവിളി ഇവിടെ കാണാം : http://downloads.bosslinux.in/Translated_Po_files/Translated_Po_files_18_languages/malayalam%20ml/

ഇതിനു മുന്‍പ് ഡെബിയന്‍ ഗ്നു/ലിനക്ലിനെ വിഭജിച്ച് ബോസ്‌ ലിനക്സ്, ഓപ്പണ്‍ഓഫീസിനെ വിഭജിച്ച് ഭാരതീയ ഓപ്പണ്‍ഓഫീസ് എന്നിങ്ങനെ രണ്ട് "സൌജന്യ സോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍" സി-ഡാക്കിന്റെ ബാംഗ്ളൂര്‍ കേന്ദ്രം പുറത്തിറക്കുകയുണ്ടായി. ഭാരതീയ ഓപ്പണ്‍ഓഫീസിന്റെ Credits and Contributions പേജില്‍ യഥാര്‍ത്ഥ ഓപ്പണ്‍ഓഫീസിന്റെ പരാമര്‍ശം പോലുമില്ല.

മേല്‍പറഞ്ഞ എല്ലാ സംരംഭങ്ങള്‍ക്കും സജീവമായ ഒരു സമൂഹം ഉണ്ടെന്നിരിക്കെ, നാട്ടുകാരുടെ നികുതിപ്പണം ഇത്തരം അര്‍ത്ഥശൂന്യമായ പദ്ധതികളില്‍ നിക്ഷേപിക്കുന്നതിനെ കുറിച്ച് സര്‍ക്കാര്‍ ഗൌരവമായി ആലോചിക്കേണ്ടതാണ്. സി-ഡാക്കിനു സ്വതന്ത്രസോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയറിനെ പിന്തുണയ്ക്കണമമെന്നു ആത്മാര്‍ത്ഥമായി ആഗ്രഹമുണ്ടെങ്കില്‍ സംരംഭങ്ങളുടെ യഥാര്‍ത്ഥ സമൂഹവുമായി(upstream community) ചേര്‍ന്നു പ്രവര്‍ത്തിക്കേണ്ടതാണ്. അല്ലാതെ, സംരംഭങ്ങളുടെ വിഭജനം ഒരു തരത്തിലും സ്വതന്ത്രസോഫ്റ്റ്‌വെയര്‍ സമൂഹത്തിനു ഗുണം ചെയ്യില്ല.

Friday, 8 August 2008

One Year Old Bug Passed Away

A popular Malayalam rendering bug, known as the Karkkodakan bug, in GNOME which was active for 1 year, 2 months and 10 days was resolved last Wednesday(6th August 2008). This was the last known bug in GNOME Malayalam rendering. Swathanthra Malayalam Computing(SMC) have come with a solution some months before, but the GNOME community didn't accepted the patch since the solution was not perfect. However, SMC was maintaining patched packages for all the popular distributions, which is no longer needed. Hopefully, the next major release of Fedora and Debian shall have 100% bug free Malayalam rendering in GNOME.

The bug was basically an issue with the Pango package which caused the incorrect rendering. The technical details and discussion can be found here. The bug was reported by Praveen A, and the Swathanthra Malayalam Computing team members actively participated in providing test cases and testing. It was one of the most complicated bugs in Malayalam rendering and several people including Sayamindu, Suresh and Baiju M contributed patches. The submitted patches have several rounds of review and finally the patch submitted by Rahul Bhalero got accepted.

A special thanks to all the people who commented, tested and helped to resolve the bug.

Praveen A

Hiran V
Sayamindu Dasgupta
Ani Peter
Santhosh Thottingal
Rahul Bhalero
Behdad Esfahbod
Baiju M
Cibu C J
Mahesh T Pai

This was an achievement of SMC, after the KDE Malayalam Translation campaign.

Even though, the bugs in GNOME are completely solved, there are still bugs reported OpenOffice.org and Qt. The complete status of Malayalam rendering issues are available here

P.S : SMC is organizing a release party at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala on 9th and 10th August 2008 to celebrate the official inclusion of Malayalam in KDE-4.1. More details are here

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Sychronize Gmail Contacts and Thunderbird Address Book

I was googling to find a solution to an issue with Thunderbird and Dovecot IMAP server and accidentally hit with an interesting Thunderbird extension viz Google Contacts. For a long time, I was searching for a solution to synchronize my Gmail address book and Thunderbird address book. Some of them have uni-directional syncing, while some other need weird configuration and just provided only auto-complete of email address. Eg. the Zindus extension has too much problems in syncing the contacts and Gcaldaemon, which requires Java, was very difficult to configure.

Google Contacts is a very simple add-on which can synchronize between the contacts on Gmail and Thunderbird. The add-on is very easy to install and configure. It's marked as experimental in the Thunderbird website and you may have to login to the website before downloading the extension. I tried this extension in Thunderbird- on a Fedora 7 box and so far there were no issues. It's being developed by H Ogi and he has maintained a good knowledge base in his blog. The only disadvantage is that it's not possible to sync the contacts created while Thunderbird is in off-line.

You can download the extension from here:
(Don't forget to login to the add-on website before downloading. If you don't have an account, create one, it takes less than 5 minutes ).
To install the add-on , open Tools --> Add-ons --> Install and then select the downloaded file. You may have to restart Thunderbird to enable the add-on.

I am sure that Google Contacts is a very useful extension for Gmail and Thunderbird users. Thanks to Google for releasing the Contacts Data API and also to H Ogi who developed this wonderful extension.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Tired of searching for Malayalam Unicode fonts

Swathanthra Malayalam Computing(SMC) has come up with a list of beautiful Malayalam fonts licensed under GNU GPL (excluding AnjaliOldLipi which is in Public Domain). All the latest versions of Rachana, Meera, Dyuthi, RaghuMalayalam, Suruma and AnjaliOldLipi can be previewed and downloaded from this page.


All the fonts except RaghuMalayalam are traditional fonts. RaghuMalayalam font was designed for the Typewriter script. Meera font is being used by two popular Malayalam dailies, viz Mathrubhumi and Mangalam. Rachana font released by Richard Stallman, is the default font in UbuntuLinux and Debian GNU/Linux. Currently these fonts are maintained and packaged by SMC and available for popular distributions such as Debian and Fedora. Thanks to Santhosh for setting up the page.

P.S: In addition to the fonts, you can also read the beautiful nostalgic poem by O N V Kurup.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Why do we need this font?

Recently I upgraded my Fedora desktop to the latest Fedora 9(Sulphur). There are several features which are worth mentioning, but I was more concerned about the Malayalam rendering issues. I have been an ardent fan of GNOME for 7 years, but this time also it disappointed me in Malayalam rendering. As an alternative I tried Konqueror(KDE-4.0.4) but still it had problems. Here is the screenshot:

But I was amazed when I removed the lohit-malayalam-fonts-2.2.1-2.fc9 which is the default Malayalam font in Fedora. See the difference here:
Even some of the Karkkodakan problem is resolved in konqueror:
I was wondering why the Fedora community is repeatedly including the buggy fonts as default, when there are better alternatives. I think, for every Malayalam user who uses Fedora 9 desktop, the first command he should learn is :

# yum remove lohit-fonts-malayalam

I think, until the pango issues are resolved, it's better to use Konqueror as the default browser.

P.S: To install Konqueror alone, just run the following command:
# yum install kdebase

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Padma extension for Firefox 3

Padma is a Mozilla Firefox extension for transforming indic between public and proprietary formats. This extension is a great boon for users of Indian languages such as Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, etc.. However, this extension doesn't work in beta version of FireFox 3. Thanks to Mr. Anil Kumar who has hacked this extension to make it work in Firefox 3. Please see this post. The modified extension is tested only in Malayalam websites and works fine.

Update : Padma development team has released an update for padma. You can download it from here : http://downloads.mozdev.org/padma/padma-0.4.13.xpi

Friday, 2 May 2008

പ്രവീണ്‍ സത്പുതെയ്ക്കും രാഹുല്‍ ബലേറോയ്ക്കും അയച്ച മറുപടി

മലയാളം യൂണിക്കോഡ് ഫോണ്ടുകളായ മീരയും ലോഹിതും തമ്മില്‍ പ്രവീണ്‍ സത്പുതെ ഒരു താരതമ്യം നടത്തുകയുണ്ടായി. എന്നാല്‍ പ്രസ്തുത ബ്ളോഗിലേക്കുള്ള കമന്റുകള്‍ അദ്ദേഹം മോഡറേറ്റ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ തീരുമാനിച്ചു. അതുകൊണ്ട് , അതിനുള്ള മറുപടി ഇവിടെ പോസ്റ്റു ചെയ്യുന്നു. ഇത് മെയ് 1 ന് ഇവിടെ പോസ്റ്റു ചെയ്തതാണ്.

രാഹുല്‍ ഇതൊന്നും കണ്ടില്ലേ ?
അതോ ഇതൊന്നും "ബഗ്ഗ്" എന്ന വിശേഷണത്തില്‍ ഉള്‍പ്പെടില്ലേ ? മലയാളം റെന്‍ഡറിങ്ങില്‍ നിലവിലുള്ള 2 പ്രധാന പ്രശ്നങ്ങളാണ് ഈ 2 ബഗ്ഗിലും വിവരിച്ചിട്ടുള്ളത്. ലോഹിതിന്റെ പ്രശ്നങ്ങളും ഇതില്‍ ഉള്‍പ്പെട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്. മലയാളത്തില്‍ ഒരു ചൊല്ലുണ്ട്: "ഉറങ്ങുന്നവരെ ഉണര്‍ത്താന്‍ എളുപ്പമാണ്. എന്നാല്‍ ഉറക്കം നടിക്കുന്നവരെ ഒരിക്കലും ഉണര്‍ത്താന്‍ പറ്റില്ല". അല്ലെങ്കില്‍ റിപ്പോര്‍ട്ട് ചെയ്തുതിന്റെ ഒന്നാം വാര്‍ഷികം ആഘോഷിക്കാന്‍ പോകുന്ന ഈ ബഗ്ഗുകള്‍ക്ക് ഒരു പരിഹാരം ഉണ്ടായിട്ടുകൂടി അതു നടപ്പിലാക്കാത്തത് എന്തു കൊണ്ടാണ് ?

5 കോടി ജനങ്ങള്‍ സംസാരിക്കുന്ന ഭാഷയുടെ ലിപി എങ്ങനെ വേണമെന്ന് തീരുമാനിക്കുന്നത് ഒരിക്കലും മലയാളം ഉപയോഗിച്ചിട്ടില്ലാത്തവര്‍. കഷ്ടം !!!

It's ridiculous that people who don't know or use Malayalam are commenting about Malayalam font and rendering issues. So I purposefully posted this in Malayalam.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Ubuntu 8.04 - Review by a Malayalam User

I was very much excited when I saw the announcement about the new release of Ubuntu in the mailing list and curious to give it a try. The new release, according to http://www.ubuntu.com is a Long Term Supported(LTS) version for 5 years and has numerous features including virtualization. It took almost 7 hours to download and upgrade the latest Ubuntu 8.04, code named Hardy Heron, in my office desktop. I preferred network upgrade since I don't want to affect my office tasks during upgrade process. The download started on Friday(25th April) and then I have to suspend it for a while and completed on Saturday. (Even though Saturday was a holiday, I couldn't wait till Monday :) ).

The upgrade completed successfully, but the new Ubuntu booted up with the old kernel which was installed with 7.10. I have to modify the grub configuration file in Fedora 8 to include Ubuntu in the grub. So I copied the following lines to the /etc/grub.conf and it was done.

title Ubuntu 8.04, kernel 2.6.24-16-generic
root (hd0,8)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.24-16-generic root=UUID=9c040612-4dbd-4dd8-9845-9a1050d7cbfe ro quiet splash
initrd /boot/initrd.img-2.6.24-16-generic

I did another reboot to pick the latest kernel with 8.04 and now I am ready with the login screen.

Cool desktop and Applications:
The artistic login screen and the desktop wallpapers are appealing and cool. The panel has a new icon named Search Tracker which allowed to search the desktop files and emails. It's a very user friendly and unlike other GNU/linux searching tools, it was very fast also. The new desktop came with the latest version of OpenOffice-2.4 and Mozilla FireFox-3 (beta 5). Even though , Firefox is still in beta, the new location bar search and unicode URLs are noticeable features. It seems that firefox is much faster than it's predecessors.

The desktop effects have been enabled by default and this gives more dynamic look for the desktop. In earlier versions, the desktop effects tend to consume more system resources, but 8.04 has improved a lot I didn't realised any performance issues. However, if you are upgrading from 7.10, then you probably need to delete all the preference files(files startiing with . (dot)) in your home directory and files related with your username in /tmp.

Disappointment for Malayalam users
I was very keen about the Malayalam support in the new release. Recently the Swathanthra Malayalam Computing(SMC) community have conducted aggressive campaigns for translating the interface and as a result more than 80% of the translation has been completed in GNOME. See the screenshot:

The new Ubuntu is not that much appealing to Malayalam desktop users. However experienced user can tweak the system so that it correctly renders the language. The only noticeable feature is the Firefox's ability to interpret the URLs in unicode. Earlier the unicode URLs seems to be a junk of characters and even techies can't interpret it correctly. I'm sure it's a wonderful feature for non-english users.

The Malayalam support in 8.04 is not installed by default and the first step is to install it from System --> Administration --> Language Support. Ubuntu will then automatically install the packages related to Malayalam including m17n, aspell and Malayalam fonts.

Unfortunately, the Malayalam rendering in 8.04 is very bad and when I opened the Malayalam wikipedia in Firefox most of the sections are unreadable. See the screenshot :
The rendering issues are mainly due to font issues and the Malayalam fonts developed by SMC, which is available for debian, resolved majority of the issues. I have to manually download the fonts from the debian repository and install them using the dpkg command.

# dpkg -i ttf-malayalam-fonts_0.5.2_all.deb

Here is the screenshot with Meera fonts maintained by SMC:

Now the rendering is perfect except this bug.

Since the rendering was OK, my next objective was to set up the Malayalam input in the desktop. Of course this is one of the failure with 8.04. The scim-m17n packages where not installed by default and I have to manually install them using the Synaptic Package Manager. I searched for "scim-m17n" and then applied it. SCIM was then configured using System-->Preferences-->SCIM Input Method The irritating stuff is that I have to start scim manually before typing anything in Malayalam. The following commands helped me to set up SCIM in startup:

sudo -i
touch /etc/X11/Xsession.d/74custom-scim_startup
chmod 646 /etc/X11/Xsession.d/74custom-scim_startup
echo 'export XMODIFIERS="@im=SCIM"' >> /etc/X11/Xsession.d/74custom-scim_startup
echo 'export GTK_IM_MODULE="scim"' >> /etc/X11/Xsession.d/74custom-scim_startup
echo 'export XIM_PROGRAM="scim -d"' >> /etc/X11/Xsession.d/74custom-scim_startup
echo 'export QT_IM_MODULE="scim"' >> /etc/X11/Xsession.d/74custom-scim_startup
chmod 644 /etc/X11/Xsession.d/74custom-scim_startup

Reference : http://www.mrbass.org/linux/ubuntu/scim/

The scim setup was complete, but again there were problems when using ZWJ and ZWNJ. Both these characters were not properly identified and this caused problem with chillus when typing Malayalam. I was using the default inscript tables by scim, and it had some bugs. To correct this I have to install another package named m17n-contrib which also has a transliteration based input method. I searched for "m17n-contrib" in Synaptic Package Manager and applied it and then I have to relogin to effect the changes in scim. Thanks to Santhosh Thottingal who guided me to troubleshoot this issue.

The Dejavu and freefont packages installed in Ubuntu has included Malayalam glyphs but it seems that they have some bugs. This may prevent rendering Malayalam perfectly in OpenOffice Writer and rich text boxes in Firefox. Even though it's not recommended, finally, I have to remove them from the system.

The Padma extension, which is used to read Malayalam news papers in dynamic font, is not supported in Firefox 3beta5. This turned to be another disappointment as a Malayalam user. Now, I may have to search for the Padma patch developed by Sri. Anil Kumar K V, one of my favourite teachers :).

Even though the issues discussed above can be solved easily, these are real obstacles for an average Malayalee desktop user. I hope that the issues may be resolved soon and shortly we may have a complete GNU/Linux desktop.

Friday, 4 April 2008

ഒരടി മുന്നോട്ട്, രണ്ടടി പിന്നോട്ട്

അടുത്ത കാലം വരെ മലയാളമനോരമയുടെ ഇന്റര്‍നെറ്റ് പതിപ്പിനു ഫയര്‍ഫോക്സിനോട് വല്ലാത്ത ഒരു അടുപ്പമില്ലായ്മ ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. ഫോട്ടോ ഗാലറിയില്‍ ആകെ കാണാന്‍ പറ്റുന്നത് ആദ്യത്തെ ചിത്രം മാത്രം. അതിനു ശേഷം എത്ര ക്ളിക്കിയാലും മുന്നോട്ട് പോകില്ലായിരുന്നു. ഈ യൂണിക്കോഡ് യുഗത്തിലും ഡൈനാമിക് ഫോണ്ടുകള്‍ ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നതു കൊണ്ട് പദ്മ ഫയര്‍ഫോക്സ് എക്സ്റ്റന്‍ഷന്‍ ഉപയോഗിച്ചാണ് മനോരമ കമ്പ്യൂട്ടറില്‍ വായിക്കുന്നത്. അല്ലെങ്കില്‍ മനോരമയുടെ ഫോണ്ട് ഡൌണ്‍ലോഡ് ചെയ്തു ഇന്‍സ്റ്റാള്‍ ചെയ്യണം. എന്നാലും ഗ്നു/ലിനക്സ് + ഫയര്‍ഫോക്സില്‍ ചില വാക്കുകള്‍ വായിക്കാന്‍ ജോല്‍സ്യനെ കാണണം. പരസ്യങ്ങള്‍ കൊണ്ട് കുത്തി നിറച്ച സൈറ്റ് കണ്ണിനു അരോചകമായി തുടങ്ങിയപ്പോള്‍ അവിടത്തെ വായന മതിയാക്കി മാതൃഭൂമി RSS ഫീഡ്സ് ബ്രൌസറില്‍ ചേര്‍ത്തു. മനോരമ ഓണ്‍ലൈനിന്റെ കെട്ടും മട്ടും ആകെ മാറിയെന്ന് ഒരു സുഹൃത്ത് പറഞ്ഞ് അറിഞ്ഞാണ് ഏറെ കാലത്തിനു ശേഷം വീണ്ടും ആ സൈറ്റ് സന്ദര്‍ശിച്ചത്..

പുതിയ ലോഗോയും, നിറങ്ങളും , ലേ-ഔട്ടും ഒരു പുതിയ അനുഭവമായി. AJAX സാങ്കേതിക വിദ്യ വളരെ ഫലപ്രദമായി ഉപയോഗിച്ചിട്ടുണ്ട്. എന്നാല്‍ ഉള്‍പേജുകള്‍ക്ക് കാര്യമായ മാറ്റമൊന്നും സംഭവിച്ചിട്ടില്ല. പരസ്യങ്ങളുടെ അതിപ്രസരം കാരണം പേജ് സ്ക്രോളിങ്ങ് വളരെ ദുഷ്കരമായി. എന്നെ ഏറ്റവും കൂടുതല്‍ നിരാശപ്പെടുത്തിയത് പുതിയ സൈറ്റിനു പദ്മയോടുള്ള പിണക്കമാണ്. AJAX ഉപയോഗിച്ചതു കാരണം പല വിഭാഗങ്ങളിലും യൂണിക്കോട് പരിഭാഷ പ്രവര്‍ത്തിക്കുന്നില്ല. നമ്മളെക്കെണ്ട് മനോരമഫോണ്ട് ഇന്‍സ്റ്റാള്‍ ചെയ്യിച്ചേ അടങ്ങൂ എന്ന വാശിയുള്ളതു പോലെ തോന്നുന്നു. അല്ലെങ്കില്‍ സാങ്കേതിക വിദ്യ ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നതില്‍ മുന്‍പന്തിയിലാണെന്ന് അവകാശപ്പെടുന്ന മനോരമ ഇപ്പോഴും ഡൈനാമിക് ഫോണ്ടില്‍ തന്നെ നില്‍ക്കുന്നതെന്തിനാണ് ?

ഐ. എസ്. ഒ അംഗീകരിച്ച യൂണിക്കോടും സ്വതന്ത്ര ഫോണ്ടുകളും ഉള്ളപ്പോള്‍ മലയാളം പത്രങ്ങള്‍ ഇപ്പോഴും മാനനീകരിക്കാത്ത ഡൈനാമിക് ഫോണ്ടുകള്‍ ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നതെന്തിനാണെന്ന് മനസ്സിലാവുന്നില്ല. മാതൃഭൂമി പത്രം, മലയാളം വിക്കിപീഡിയ, പിന്നെ സ്വത ന്ത്ര മലയാളം കമ്പ്യൂട്ടിങ് വെബ്സൈറ്റും മാത്രമാണ് എന്റെ അറിവില്‍ ഇന്‍ര്‍നെറ്റില്‍ മലയാളം യൂണിക്കോഡ് ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നത്.

Friday, 21 March 2008

CATS Open Source version discontinued

The companies which I work for, uses Source version of CATS Applicant Tracking System(CATS) for managing the internal recruiting and applicant tracking. Today, I was looking at their website for new software updates and noticed that the Open Source version of CATS is no longer available for download. I checked their news/blog site and found that there is no reference about the discontinuation. As a developer I was disappointed with the company's deal with the Open Source version. There was a vibrant community around CATS which helped in testing and debugging the software and I was also part of them on behalf of my employer. It's really shocking to see that all the reference to user/developer forums, bug tracker systems and the download area are removed from the website and no one can access the knowledge base which was built with the help of developers from all over the world.

The CATS project was claimed to be industry's first Open Source Enterprise Applicant Tracking System. The "About Us" page which appeared during 2007 August in CATS website says:

Industry's First Open Source Applicant Tracking System

Welcome to CATS, the industry's first Applicant Tracking System (ATS), written by recruiters, for recruiters! CATS has a clean user-interface, is easy to use, and has all the bells and whistles of expensive proprietary commercial ATS packages. See for yourself and learn why CATS is being implemented by thousands of Human Resource (HR) professionals, recruiters, staffing and placement agencies around the world.
Quoted with the help of http://archive.org

CATS is being developed by Cognizo Technologies with the help of an active community moderated by the same company itself. Until version 0.9.1 CATS was available for free download under the terms of CATS Public License Version 1.1a (a modified version of Mozilla Public License Version 1.1). CATS released the first version of the Applicant Tracking System about 2 years back and acclaimed good feedback due to the intuitive interface and simple application process. CATS can be installed on a server which supports PHP and MySQL and can be used on any standard web browser.

Initially the project was developer-friendly and offered Subversion repository access to the community developers. But even after 2 years, the company didn't provided the Subversion access. After discontinuation, the company removed all the hyper links to the forums and bug tracker systems from the website. However I was able to access the bugs through these direct URLs FS#113 and FS#108 (I don' think that these URL will be there for a long period).

From the user perspective, there won't be any impact on the company's move, because they still offer the free hosted version of the software. There are also additional features which can be utilized if the users subscribe to the paid plans. I don't see any issues in providing such a service. But denying access to developers who contributed to the project is not graceful from the perspective of a Free Software enthusiast. May be the project haven't accepted any code from the developers outside the company. But I'm sure that there are people, like me, who helped in testing, reporting bugs and feature request.

Cognizo used the buzzword Open Source to publicize their product and once they got a stable project, they simply locked the "Open" Source project. Who knows whether Open Source projects like OrangeHRM KnowledgeTree , or VtigerCRM may follow the same path and close the source code. However I hope that it won't happen and soon there will be a better replacement for CATS.

P.S: The opinions expressed in this article are not of my employers and doesn't have any relation with Ascella Technologies and Ejyothi Services (I work for them).

Friday, 4 January 2008

My checklist for Fedora desktop

I have been using GNU/Linux since 2001, and experimented various versions of RedHat Linux and Fedora and currently using Fedora 8. Whenever I upgrade( or sometimes do a fresh install) it's very difficult to setup the commonly used applications, so I have compiled a list of applications in a text file in my desktop. I thought that this would be helpful for others also, so I added some brief notes.

1. Xine - Multimedia player:
xine has been my favourite multimedia player for several years. Unfortunately due to legal issues xine is not included in the Fedora repository but it is available in the Freshrpms fedora repository. The Freshrpms also contains several other add-ons for Fedora. It's quite easy to setup the yum to access Freshrpms repository, just run the following command from a terminal:

rpm -ivh http://ftp.freshrpms.net/pub/freshrpms/fedora/linux/8/freshrpms-release/freshrpms-release-1.1-1.fc.noarch.rpm

Once the repo is enabled the following command can be used to install xine.
# yum install xine

2. xmms-mp3 - MP3 plugin for xmms:
XMMS is one of the simplest audio player available for GNU/Linux. The XMMS package should be installed prior to xmms-mp3. This apckage is available in freshrpms repo. I used the following command to install xmms and it's plugin.
# yum install xmms xmms-mp3

3. dvdrip - DVD ripping utility
This package is also available in freshrpms. The following command will install dvdrip.

# yum install dvdrip

4. gstreamer-plugins-ugly - Proprietary codecs for gstreamer
Totem and other native gnome media players doesn't play the media files enoded in proprieatary formats. gstreamer-plugins-ugly will help you to overcome this limitation.

# yum install gstreamer-plugins-ugly

5. rar and unrar - compression utility
Occassionaly some of my friends sent files compressed using the M$ Windows compression utility. Freshrpms has the rar package which can be used to compress and decompress files in rar format.

# yum install rar unrar

6. libquicktime - Library for reading and writing QuickTime files
The libquicktime package is necessary for reading quicktime files(*.mov) in GNU/Linux. This package is also provided by Freshrpms.

# yum install libquicktime

7. Flash Player:
Even though I'm not a big fan of flash movies, occasionally I have to visit websites that supports flash movies. The adobe website provides a yum repository of the flash plugins so that you can view flash movies in your web browser.

Install the adobe-release package using the following command:
rpm -ivh http://linuxdownload.adobe.com/adobe-release/adobe-release-i386-1.0-1.noarch.rpm

Now you can install flashplayer using the following command:
# yum install flash-plugin

8. Java:
Java can be downloaded from java official website. I prefer to install sun java in /opt since Fedora already has a java version (icedtea).

9. Malayalam support:
Using Malayalam in my computer was my dream and it seems that it's almost perfect now. Most of theissues are resolved but I have to do some kind of tweaking to read and write Malayalam in Fedora. I have to install the latest updates of pango and libicu packages from the smc repository. (The packages in this repository will soon be available in the official fedora repository also). Pango is the rendering engine for GNOME and libicu is the rendering engine for OpenOffice.org
Download the smc repo file from here and copy it to /etc/yum.repos.d/.
After setting up the repository update the pango and libicu packages using the following command:

# yum update libicu pango

The lohit-malayalam fonts distributed with Fedora is buggy and you have to install the Mal0tf or Rachana_g02(traditional) fonts to render malayalam properly. You can download these fonts from here . The installation instructions can be found in my previous post.

10. Firefox Padma
There has been issues in reading Malayalam websites (www.manoramaonline.com, www.deepika.com etc ..) which uses the dynamic fonts. The Firefox community has come up with an add-on called Padma, which can be used to convert the dynamic fonts to unicode fonts so that they can be read correctly. To install Padma in your firefox, open the url https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/873 in Firefox and click the "Install Now" button.

11. K3B
Even though my favourite desktop environment is GNOME, my all time favourite in KDE is K3B, which is the superior CD/DVD burning software in GNU/Linux. K3B is available in the official Fedora repository and it can be installed using yum.

These are just the preliminary list. I will keep on adding to this whenever I get time.