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'nough of the establishement

Say, aren't you tired of Opera and Firefox yet?

deb karmic main
deb-src karmic main


add-apt-key ppa:chromium-daily/ppa
wajig update
wajig install chromium-browser




FF on Mini

FF on Mini

Firefox 3.5 performs surprisingly well on the Mini. Yet, it literally crawls compared to Chromium, which starts up virtually instantaneously, and displays pages with a speed commonly associated only with quad-core machines. ;)

make: don't know how to make love

The title of this entry is an old joke born in times when package managers were not yet invented. All administrators thus had to know how to install programs from the source with the now well-known, and even famous sequence of commands, the "rule of three":

make install

Now, you can still install programs in this old-fashioned but canonical way. But aren't there better ways?

Oh yes, and we are all using them: they are called package managers. They did away with the dependency hell, which was the source of constant irritation in the early days of Unix before the development of package managers dealing with dependencies (that, by the way, is just a decade ago). Ian Murdock called package management the single biggest advancement Linux has brought to the industry, and I fully agree. It's the prime reason why I'm using Linux and not MacOS.

You now may understand why I principally consider the above "rule of three" as the last resort. Bypassing the package management is always possible, and in the rare cases I do that, I install everything in /usr/local as recommended. Yet, this should be done in exceptional cases only, and not become the standard. Remember that these self-installed packages are not part of the automatic security updates offered by your package manager, nor can they be cleany removed in an automated way. In other words, these packages need to be looked after and pampered, and I just don't want that on my system.

But what to do if your distribution simply doesn't offer a package you're interested in, or only a grossly outdated version?

There are a number of possibilities, and there's an helpful tool which helps to explore some of them.

  • First of all, I always check whether the tarball of the program I've just downloaded contains a *.spec file. Then, a simple 'rpmbuild -ta .tar.gz' might suffice to create a binary rpm out of the tarball . You can then install this rpm with the package manager of your liking. ;)
  • Second, if there's no *.spec, or if compilation fails, there's a high chance that alien will work. For example, my versions of gdis and gwyddion are both the offspring of a conversion from a debian/sid package to an rpm by alien. To find out whether the desired program is somewhere out there, you can use whohas as mentioned above. Beware: the script does not run out of the box. One needs to specify the version numbers of current distributions in line 50 ff, and currently it is also advisable to deactivate mandriva and slackware (just underneath, switch to zero). In any case, after you found the package you need by whohas (which tells you the address!) and downloaded it, simply run 'alien --to-rpm --scripts .deb' and install the resulting rpm by your package manager. Or vice versa: 'alien --to-deb --scripts .rpm'
  • Third, you may, in exceptional cases, also install packages build for another distribution. Fedora packages, for example, can often be installed on Mandriva and vice versa. However, you should only do that if you're versed in this business, as it can easily wreck your system.

This is the end of Opera

I've predicted previously that Javascript perfomance will be a decisive criterion for the acceptance of browsers in the near future. I erred in the time frame for the future, however.

Javascript performance is of relevance here and now. Yesterday, I went shopping for my new gaming rig. Most online shops heavily rely on Javascript for their PC configurators -- as an example, see the configurator of Alternate. When configuring a system, I often switch between the actual configurator, the product overview and the users ratings. Using Opera 10.01 on my Core 2 Duo E6600 with 8 GB of RAM, the resulting browsing experience was unbearably slow.

I then switched to Midori and could hardly believe my eyes ... with or without Javascript seems to make no difference for this browser. See, that's how it's done! Yippie-ka-yay, Opera :D

Midori 0.2.0
586.4 ms +/- 17.2%
Safari 4.0.4 531.21.10
Windows 7, VirtualBox 3.0.12
613.0 ms +/- 57.7%
Windows XP SP3, VirtualBox 3.0.12
819.4 ms +/- 16.3%
Midori 0.2.1
ArchLinux 2.6.31 x86_64, VirtualBox 3.0.12
880.8 ms +/- 4.5%
FF 3.7 alpha
native 1580.4ms +/- 3.5%
Konqueror 4.3
2214.2 ms +/- 2.8%
FF 3.5.5
native 2274.8ms +/- 2.9%
FF 3.7 alpha
ArchLinux 2.6.31 x86_64, VirtualBox 3.0.12
3579.2 +/- 5.9%
Opera 10.10 1893
native 4428.8ms +/- 4.3%
Opera 10.01 1844
Windows 7, VirtualBox 3.0.12
4761.4 ms +/- 9.6%
Opera 10.01 1844
Windows NT 4 SP 6, VMWare Player 2.5.3 5015.0 ms +/- 1.4%
FF 3.5.5 (Arch build)
ArchLinux 2.6.31 x86_64, VirtualBox 3.0.12
5828.0 ms +/- 16.1%
FF 3.5.4 (Suse build)
OpenSuse 11.2, VirtualBox 3.0.12
5872.0 ms +/- 7.4%
Opera 10.01 4682
6229.8ms +/- 4.7%
FF 3.5.5 (Mandriva build)
native 6238.4ms +/- 1.1%
IE 8.0 6001.18702
Windows XP SP3, VirtualBox 3.0.12
6418.4 ms +/- 6.9%
IE 8.0 7100
Windows 7, VirtualBox 3.0.12
6999.8 ms +/- 14.4%
Seamonkey 1.1.17
11945.2 ms +/- 12.0%
IE 6.0
Windows NT 4 SP6, VMWare Player 2.5.3
62990.4 ms +/- 1.8%

Native means: Mandriva 2010.0 x86_64 on a Core 2 Duo E6600 and 8 GB RAM. For comparison: Chromium 4.0.252 on my Mini (Ubuntu Karmic on an Atom N270) needs 2216.8 ms to complete the test. Faster than all non-Webkit browsers on my main machine ...

Webkit-based browsers are by far the fastest, beating Gecko by a factor of three and Presto almost by an order of magnitude. This performance difference is quite perceptible in everyday applications as outlined above. What's more: in comparison to my last browser snapshot, both Webkit and Gecko improved their Javascript performance. Opera, instead, is getting worse.

For years Opera talked about a JIT for Javascript in the 'next' version. Now, Opera is the only browser (besides IE) to not have this feature. "The fastest browser on earth" is a long time ago ...

On a sidenote: Mandriva seems to provide particularly slow builds (see FF 3.5.5, Mandriva build). That, of course, makes me particularly happy. :(

Update: I forgot to switch off adsweep (wich costs a lot of perfomance, since it is a Javascript ;) ) in the native Opera test. The new values are consistent with those obtained in the virtual machine, but don't change any of the statements above.

Manager syndrome

I have to admit something: recently, I forgot one or two of the dozen meetings I'm asked to attend every week. I arrived too late or even had to be searched. Quite embarassing... I've thus (grudgingly) decided to start using an electronic calendar, and as KDE user settled onto the one integrated into Kontact. But if I'm using this modern inconveniences, I also demand to be able to sync the calendar to my home.

Here's how it is working. And here're abbreviated instructions for sake of brevity:

  • set up a disconnected IMAP account in KMail
  • run 'kcmshell4 kresources', and add the entry containing IMAP Server via KMail for the calendar, contacts and notes
  • go to the KMail settings, and enable IMAP (Misc/Groupware)

Hm, that's it. It works flawlessly.

I'm not sure whether or not I should call that progress.

Bash "should-be" standards

Whenever I see a pristine Debian or Ubuntu system, I wonder why elementary functions of the bash are not activated.

You can either edit /etc/bashrc and /etc/inputrc or do the following per user:

echo "export HISTSIZE=1000" >> ~/.bashrc
echo "export HISTFILESIZE=1000" >> ~/.bashrc
echo "export GREP_OPTIONS='--color=auto'" >> ~/.bashrc
echo "shopt -s histappend" >> ~/.bashrc
echo "PROMPT_COMMAND=\"history -a; \$PROMPT_COMMAND\"" >> ~/.bashrc

echo "\"\e[5~\": history-search-backward" >> ~/.inputrc
echo "\"\e[6~\": history-search-forward" >> ~/.inputrc
echo "set match-hidden-files off" >> ~/.inputrc
echo "set page-completions off" >> ~/.inputrc
echo "set completion-query-items 350" >> ~/.inputrc
echo "set show-all-if-ambiguous on" >> ~/.inputrc

Korea and Koalas

Back home. Fortunately!

Even I can get tired of spicy food if it amounts to several dozens of cloves of garlic and more than four or five ounces of pepper paste every day and night. You see, I've tried to compensate for the complete lack of vegetables and side-dishes by an increased consumption of garlic (and pepper paste). Hmm...fortunately there's kimchi.

Kimchi's the national Korean food and consists of a few lonely leaves of lettuce heavily pickeled in vinegared garlic and pepper paste. Or peppered and vinegared garlic paste. It tastes great, if consumed in measured amounts. In excessive quantities (>200 g), it starts to be as boring as ten pounds of sauerkraut. In any case, when I was threatened to get bored by garlic and pepper alone, I always had Kimchi.

"We've got ham, eggs, and kimchi, eggs, kimchi, kimchi and ham, kimchi, kimchi, eggs and ham, kimchi...." :D

Other than that, Korean food has not much to offer. Or that's how it appears to me. Somehow, I was always loaded with garlic. And pepper. ;)

Anyway, coming back home, Karmic Koala aka Ubuntu 9.10 appeared. Since the Mini did great in Korea, I thought it'd deserve an immediate upgrade.

The upgrade went as smooth as upgrades can. Bugs and quirks still present in 9.04 just disappeared. A few comments in the following for completeness.

Karmic comes with an inactive apparmor profile for Firefox. To activate it, issue

sudo aa-enforce /etc/apparmor.d/usr.bin.firefox-3.5

Karmic comes with a cute little firewall called ufw (useless firewall...hey, just kidding :D ). In any case, to activate it, type in the following:

sudo -i
ufw enable
ufw logging on
ufw status
ufw allow ssh/tcp (if you want ssh access, for example)

Finally, if you go all the way and encrypt your home partition, you'd probably be sensitive to the way the system logs you in. Karmic shows all user names by default. To change that, issue:

sudo -u gdm gconftool-2 --type bool \
--set /apps/gdm/simple-greeter/disable_user_list 'true'

This way, one still can just login to the user account with no data if asked at immigration. ;)


From tomorrow, I'll be located here:


Will take me more than 20 hours to reach this site. But hey, there's nothing I wouldn't do in the name of science. :D

I'll be back in 10 days. Have fun, take care. ;)

Travel arrangements

In one week, I'll take the Mini to its first intercontinental trip. It's not that I can't live without the obligatory twenty mails per day. Rather, I just love the possibility to connect to IRC and find you (the reader) online, giving me this warm cozy feeling of being home (almost). ;)

However, there are a few things I deem to be essential when taking the Mini out to the public. One is encryption. Since I didn't encrypt the system when installing it, I looked for a foolproof way of doing it afterwards. There are a few, but this is the easiest one:

Backup your home drive either internally or externally. Install ecryptfs-utils. Now, get out of your system, and boot into a root console. Issue the following:

deluser --remove-home user
rm -rf /home/user
adduser --encrypt-home user
adduser user admin
adduser user sambashare
adduser user lpadmin

The Mini doesn't have a swap drive, so I don't have to worry about that.

After the reboot, you should see the extra partition '/home/user/.Private' just as in the following screenshot. The speed you see there, by the way, is unaffected by the encryption.


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