Happy Eid & كل عام و أنتم بخير

October 1st, 2008

كل عام و أنتم بخير و الى الله أقرب
May every Eid find you ever closer to Allah

Book Collection Managment for Linux

September 26th, 2008

Once upon a time, the options available to Linux users interested in managing their book collections were limited. The situation was so bleak that I attempted to create my own web-based application. That app was fine until I tried to host it on my 64MB VPS and failed (RoR had a footprint of 60MB all by itself)!

Lately, I have been missing the ability to browse through my books. I started thinking about having another attempt at a book collection manger. Maybe this time I would try and write a desktop application. I could use python or even try out mono. So today I did a bit of googling and stumbled upon Alexandria, a book collection manager for GNOME.

This application is brilliant! It is almost the perfect application. All I needed to do was get a list of books in my old app:

echo "select isbn from books;" | sqlite3 mybooklist_production.sqlite > import-list.txt

I was then able to import all my old books into Alexandria using the import ISBN list feature. I would like to recommend this app to anyone who is looking for a book collection manger for Linux. The site also has deb packages for those who use Debian or Ubuntu.

Dell Mini 9: Good Netbook but Pricing All Wrong

September 6th, 2008

I have not found a netbook that I feel 100% comfortable with. All the products out there have either too much or too little. The EEEPC901 comes the closest but is a bit too expensive for my taste (I would guess it is all the extra SSD).

Zein’s perfect netbook:

o Linux based (No Windows tax for me!)
o 9″ or 10″ screen.
o Atom 1.6Ghz
o 1GB RAM
o Large track pad (the Acer for example is too small)
o 4GB (at least and 8GB at most) of storage.
o 4 hours (at least) battery life.
o 1.3 MP Webcam
o Wifi
o bluetooth (optional)

And so I got very excited when I saw that the Dell Mini 9 had been released. The Dell is a lot more customizable at purchase time them the EEEPC, Aspire One or the MSI Wind and therefore a lot cheaper since you only pay for what you want. I got a surprise when I discovered that the Linux and Windows XP versions are identical in price!!

Here are screen shots of the 2 systems after configuration. Both are $US 454 (after $40 instant savings on the XP version) and while that is a lot less then an EEEPC 901. I am baffled to as why I am not saving by not paying any windows tax! I would have expected the Linux version to be at least $US 50 less than the windows version.

The Linux version
The XP version

Star Wars Comedy

August 26th, 2008

I found this today and I found it so funny I had to share it!

Home ZFS NAS Upgrade

August 8th, 2008

Ever since I put together my low budget NAS, I have been wanting to upgrade it. Initially it was a proof of concept, now it needs to be low power and functional. The old NAS was a 32-bit system (32-bit makes ZFS crawl). I wanted a low power and cheap 64 bit system and so I ended up getting a atom 230 based mini-itx system from Intel… The D945GCLF. I fitted 1GB of RAM and used a 4GB CF card as the hard disk (via a CF-IDE adapter). For the OS I used ncp 2.0 alpha 1 (based on Ubuntu Hardy).

I had a few problems with Nexenta on this board:

  • The installation of Nexenta went fine on the CF card, but come time to reboot, I received a “GRUB stage2 read error”. I spent a couple of days trying to figure out what was wrong but as I did not succeed, I am using an old HDD for now.
  • The 2nd issue is that Nexenta kept booting up into 32 bit. This was due to grub not recognizing the atom as 64-bit. This was solved by hard coding ”amd64” in place of ”$ISADIR” in the menu.lst file of grub. Full details of this bug can be found here and here. Use isainfo -vk to make sure
  • The last issue is that the onboard LAN chip is not supported. The chip is a Realtek 8136 and shows up as ”pciex10ec,8136”. For now I have installed an old Netgear PCI card
  • Once I get me NAS up and running, I will then spend some more time trying to fix the CF card issue. The onboard LAN issue will solve itself in time. Until then, I can wait.

    ICCS08 Day 1

    June 24th, 2008

    Getting to Krakow

    I got in Krakow on the 22nd at about 9:30 AM. The hotel wouldn’t let me check in until 2:00 PM so I had to walk about the city. I found a shopping mall and worked on my presentation. By the time I checked in, had a shower and prayed Duhr and Aser, I was dead tired so I went to bed. I woke up at 11:00 PM. By the time I had finished my presentation, it was 6:00AM on the 23rd. So I got ready, had breakfast and set of for the conference.

    The conference

    I arrived at 7:30 and picked up my registration material. They gave me a backpack that was 10 times better than the crappy backpack I got at SC07.

    Keynote speakers were a mix of brilliant and boring. I was really happy with the talk by Maria E. Orlowska about “Intrinsic Limits in Context Modeling”. She spoke about problems that people are promising to solve yet have been proved to be unsolvable. She states that context modeling is the way forward but we need to understand what the limits are. I like part of her talk that highlighted that when speed and size of our computing abilities have increased, computing itself has remained static in terms of what we can compute.

    I was very Nervous about giving my presentation but It went very well. Now that I have got that over with, I can enjoy the conference. Other presentations of interest were by Intel about there 45nm shrink process and some linear algebra work on the cell processor.

    The Best Computer Science Course Ever

    June 14th, 2008

    Instead of explaining, I will just ask you to watch this 10 minute introduction (1st video) or the full 1 hour long presentation (2nd video). I think I will buy the book when I go to the US in July. I wish that we had professors like this in Egypt.

    Mark Shuttleworth is not a terrorist

    June 5th, 2008

    I found this interview with Mark at the Ubuntu Developer Summit on YouTube. He is wearing a shit shirt with Arabic writing on it. It says “I am not a terrorist” 🙂

    Must the Friday Khutba be delivered in Arabic?

    March 18th, 2008

    A few weeks ago I approached one of my Muslim brothers here in Canberra to participate in delivering of Khutba’s at the Muslalah at the ANU. He told me that he had a 2 issues with the prayers being held at the Muslah. One of them was that the Khutba must be given in Arabic. He guided me to an article by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, that argues that case.

    I believe that Islam is a practical religion and that its laws reflect that practicality. I also believe that when faced with different opinions from reputable scholars, it is our job to chose the opinion that maximizes benefit for the Muslim Umah.

    Faced with my brothers gentle request to accommodate him, I started to research the subject. I immediately aimed my browser at Islam Online where I know there exists a fatwa bank. I found a few articles and several fatwas on the subject.

    articles on the subject:
    Delivering the Friday Sermon in a Language Other than Arabic
    Role of Friday Khutbah
    Friday Khutbah in the Language of the Audience
    There, I found a multitude of fatwas that permit giving the khutba in a languge other than Arabic.
    I also found this link from the Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. whom I have never heard of.

    I think that it is safe to say that there is no problem in giving the khutba in English.

    menu.lst issue with Nexenta and ZFS root

    February 23rd, 2008

    The grub menu in Nexenta is modified thought editing the menu.lst file. However the menu.lst file in question resides in the syspool file system (the root file system is syspool/rootfs-nmu-000. This is accomplished by:

    mount -F zfs syspool /media/temp
    vi /media/temp/boot/grub/menu.lst
    umount /media/temp/