Monday, 31 October 2011

Linux | Tweak and save your Synaptics Settings

Those who use a Synaptics touchpad on Linux may experience some problems. Most likely, you will not be able to access any of those advanced features such as emulating two finger scrolling. Recently, support was added so that you can choose that option but the more detailed settings of minimum finger pressure (EmulateTwoFingerMinZ) and the minimum touch detection width for two finger emulation (EmulateTwoFingerMinW) for example cannot be changed.

The fore-mentioned settings are just a couple settings among many which should be tweaked for optimal computing comfort, which all Linux users strive to achieve. The road towards this can vary and there are solutions which are easier than others. I'd like to explain to you, the easy solution.

The easy solution is to use synclient, a programme which lets you edit Synaptics settings on the fly. synclient has the advantage of being ridiculously easy to use and the disadvantage of not making your changes persistent (permanent). I have written a script to solve this problem.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Being Human

I've been reading through a trilogy called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Seeing how it is a must-read for all budding Physics applicants for UK universities, I am a few years late in reading the books and it really shows that I was in some ways rather unprepared for my course.

While a bit late, reading these few books by Douglas Adams has truly been a remarkably enjoyable experience. I do not want to reveal any spoilers so I won't go into specifics but would rather like to talk about some musings I had while thinking about the series.

I have yet to finish the 5-books trilogy and have gone up to almost finishing the third book, Life, The Universe and Everything, but I have still been able to grasp what usually seems to happen. There is a man called Arthur Dent, a Beltegeusean hitch-hiker named Henry Ford, a pompous two-headed man called Zaphod Beeblebrox who happens to be Ford's cousin, and a few other characters who somehow end up working towards saving the whole universe while having no idea at all about what and why they are doing what they are doing. The books are riddled with obvious and implicit humour and there are often times where I just cannot stop smiling. The smiling is often caused by the odd acts the characters put on. They are all rather selfish and often desert each other, they also have very strong opinions causing them to fight and mess things up, and most of them are very nonchalant about most of the odd situations they are put in. But apart from all of these odd behaviours, the most commonly used bit of humour is how these main characters, when meeting and being threatened by enemies, respond by posing some seemingly obvious logic questions, with the targeted enemy becoming instantly confused.

While the traits of all of the characters in the series is most likely set up to make the story most enjoyable, when you think twice about them, you will notice that us human beings share all if not most of their traits. We merely hide them well (or we think so). Selfishness, laziness, idiocy, and while not mentioned often, comradeship, love and such are all portrayed by the participating organisms of the series. Since the book is written for us human beings to read and relate to, all aliens and humans act like humans. I say this lightly, but what do we mean when we say 'human'?

The word human is used in many different words, situations and context. There's the word humanity which refers to the human species. It is however also used in exclamations such as: Oh the humanity! where it is used in a similar meaning to humane, which is often understood as having compassion. There's also humanoid, a word used often in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to describe organisms which have human-like physical features. There's also the popular word superhuman which refers to fictional beings which have spectacular powers (those should really be called extra-human since the super in superhuman does not work like super does in supersonic since supersonic refers to speeds greater than the speed of sound while superhuman refers to beings which are not necessarily greater or better than others.).

What is being human then? I hear you say that it is tightly related to being humane. Then what's being humane? Oh you're telling me something again... ah so it's having human traits? So what are human traits? Compassion only? No, not at all, human traits must include so much more! We often encourage 'good' acts by promoting acts of love and selflessness but as we all know people are very evil in general. Surely, with so many evil people around, being 'bad' must also be part of standard human traits?

"But this is just rubbish!", I hear you say, "surely you must accept the commonly accepted meaning of being human which refers to being a loving, caring, compassionate person? Surely by such extreme generalisations you are clearly making ANYTHING human!". Well I see what you mean. If my argument was to carry on, any living and thinking creature could be human. The flaw in this rebuttal however, is that we do not yet know if there are creatures which have our human traits as a subset of their own traits. We do not know also, that all of our traits combined are the only possible traits available for all thinking creatures. I hear you choke at my mention of thinking creatures but that's a debate for another time...

As for the matter at hand of defining what a human is, I believe that it is impossible to continue further. Afterall, we do not know much about ourselves. It is also impossible to enforce any different meaning onto the connotations of being human when it is the most abused reason for condemning the bad guys: those who perform inhuman behaviours to the disadvantage of others. There are also thousands of the so-called traits which I could list and the flaw with doing so would be that it would be almost every emotion or property we have ever thought of. In the end, all words which we use and know come from us!

To stop the endless loop of confusion, I must stop this post here right now.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

[Blogger's Missing Files Host's Missing Characters]

Previously, while talking about the setting up of this blog, I mentioned how Blogger's "Missing Files Host" feature was of great appeal.

It is wonderful really since it lets you seemingly 'host' files on your blog while actually being able to keep it elsewhere. It lets you upload files in your preferred method then lets you share links which seemingly originate from your blog. This helps you drive traffic to your blog and also gives the reader a more integrated feeling. Coupled with CDN, it is just wonderful.

There are quite a few massive caveats however.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Slow NTFS-3G with Oneiric

This is a short post to inform anyone if ntfs-3g I/O has been painfully slow after upgrading to Oneiric Ocelot (Ubuntu 11.10).

I have always relied rather heavily on the NTFS filesystem. This is because I am not 100% free from using Windows. While Windows is rather annoying to use, some programs such as Microsoft Office simply do not work on Linux. To keep the environment as similar as possible, I have always mounted my Windows partition and have used ntfs-3g, a NTFS driver for Linux to access my 'shared' files.

My $HOME/Desktop/ folder for instance, is symlinked to /mnt/windows/Users/Wookie/Desktop/ so that my desktop can contain the same files on both *buntu and Windows. Now I do admit that this is not in any way an ideal method of doing what I wish to do, and I should really be using rsync for a safer 'syncing'. This has worked thus far though so I felt that I could keep it as it is.

The problem arose when I noticed after almost a full week of Oneiric, that all of my browser downloads (which were downloading to $HOME/Desktop/) were painfully slow. I was getting around 50kBps when I would usually get 500kBps. My write speed was somehow incredibly slow (read speeds were fine). It turned out that the problem was with ntfs-3g.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Blogger + $3.74 VPS + Speedy Mirror CDN = Bliss

When I set about to get this blog ready, I had a few decisions to make.
I'd like to explain why I have made the decisions I have made.

Own Hosting vs Blogging Service

First off, I had to decide between own-hosting and service hosting. What do I mean by those terms? Simply put, this was whether I wanted to host the blog software with my own hardware/software or rely on a company for the maintenance of my blog.
I had previously tried hosting my own Wordpress blog and while maintenance was not too much of an issue and I was very happy, I quickly noticed that with greater freedom, I had the hassle of having too many choices. Among the many things I had to care about were:

  • Web server performance (inclusive of PHP performance) - Does my blog load up quickly enough? Does it cause too much load?
  • Reliability - Let's set up backups every hour just in case I need them. My server could burn, the hard drive could corrupt, anything could happen and the worst will always happen to my blog.

I found myself messing about with plugins and setting half of the time, adding this and that then eventually stripping most plugins out to increase performance.

With the previous experience in mind (as well as previous forum hosting etc), I decided that I wanted my blog to be hassle-free. Sure, setting up and tweaking web servers is fun. It's fun bragging about my knowledge in Nginx vs. Apache and similar topics as well as boasting how my system is relatively fast compared to someone else's billion-dollar setup. However, the point of having a blog is to blog! There are literally hundreds of companies out there, asking you to jump into their arms for hassle free blogging. There were a few options I had yet again.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Upgrading to Oneiric Ocelot

The long awaited Ubuntu 11.10 (codename 'Oneiric Ocelot') was out a few days ago. I say 'long awaited' but to be honest, I was not looking forward to it at all. Being a Kubuntu user, Ubuntu releases do not mean too much to me as functionalities with KDE are mostly decided by KDE itself and Kubuntu does a very good job at keeping KDE as vanilla as possible.

Still, I wanted to try out the new and polished Unity as well as Gnome3 with an upgrade to 11.10 (from 11.04). I found out later that Gnome 3 is only available via PPA (shame on you Canonical) but nevertheless, upgrading is always fun... or not.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Cowon and UCI design

한글을 보고 싶으신 분은, 영문 위에 마우스를 올려 놓으십시오.

Cowon is without doubt my favourite PMP and mp4 player manufacturer. The company has not disappointed even once since the first time I heard of them which was back when the iAUDIO 4 was selling furiously well. Having been influenced heavily by a friend, I got the Cowon G3, my first mp3 player which I still keep and use from time to time. Acquiring the D2 and J3 in the following years did not require any difficult decisions as can be seen from my reasoning below.

iAUDIO F1 - This intriguingly designed mp3 player sported a F1 car design with 2x3.5mm jacks as exhausts and a speedometer GUI.