"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." (Robert A. Heinlein)

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy 11111011111!

I mean Happy 2015! of course. Since the coming year has this nice binary representation let me use it to wish all my readers all the best for the New Year.

Happy New Year!

New toy on the desk: Raspberry Pi


During a recent Electronics and Surplus fair just before Christmas I decided to buy myself what I consider has been the computer of this soon-to-end year: the Raspberry Pi.
I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with it, apart from experimenting of course. Probably I'll use it as headless server thanks its low power consumption it would be able to stay on-line 24 hours a day.


Before to start

The Raspberry board (a B+ model) I bought was a bare-bone one so, before to start, I had to procure a 2A USB power supply and a 8 GB Micro-SD memory card. Some cell-phone charger can power the Raspberry (mine didn't) and on the 'net you can find Raspberry disk images as small as 2GB but, for a stable use, a dedicated power supply and a big enough memory card are needed.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Scanning virtual machines for viruses: Trinity Rescue Disk


I often use VirtualBox virtual machines to solve the few cases where I still need a Microsoft Windows only application. This solution works well but is far from ideal from the security point of view. The only Windows version I still own is the not more unsupported Windows XP, so my virtual machines are an easy target to the many viruses and malware around the 'net. As general precaution I keep my virtual machines off the network by disabling their virtual network card but, in some cases, the application used might explicitly require a network connection and other infection ways exist other than the 'net. Generally speaking it would be wise to periodically check all Windows virtual machines disks for viruses.
I'm not positive about installing an anti-virus software on a virtual machine mostly because I fear the loss of the not already brilliant machine performances so I went looking for a alternative solution.

Trinity Rescue Disk

Trinity Rescue Disk is a small (very small indeed) footprint live Linux distribution specialized in broken computer recovery. Among the many useful tools it offers scanning all computer drives for viruses using five of the most common anti-virus programs. In order boot and work with Trinity Rescue Disk the virtual machine must have assigned at least 1GB of RAM. If you are experimenting with very low specs machines you'll have to temporarily change the machine memory settings.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Blog-Birthday Six

Also the sixth year of blogging has passed. I don't like recaps so let me just thanks who came here to read my experiences and ... stay tuned!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The quest for new languages: Scala

As a programmer I try to keep track of the new tools are continuously made available to my work. It's a hard task, almost impossible, since every day new languages, framework or libraries are proposed on the Internet. I usually follow a conservative strategy by leaving novelties to “grown up” a little in order to see it they are more or less widely used.
I've been recently reading this article, among the many languages and technologies cited one particularly awakened my interest: Scala.

Why Scala?

Three things about Scala caught at my attention: first it runs on a standard Java virtual machine this means an easier integration with the programming ecosystem I'm mostly used to work with. Then I learned that Scala implements the functional programming paradigm. I really know little about functional programming but the idea of learning a new programming paradigm really enticed me. Last, but not least, Scala is nowadays widely used in big and complex software projects like Twitter or LinkedIn.

Scala on Eclipse (Luna)

A good Eclipse plug-in is available for Scala named Scala IDE for Eclipse. I fist tried downloading the one available at Eclipse Marketplace but I soon discovered it didn't work with Eclipse Luna. After some searching in the Internet I discovered the only working version for Eclipse Luna is version 4.0 release candidate 2. Installing the plug-in has been only matter of copying the update address into Eclipse “Install new software” window, agreeing to licenses and following instructions.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Upgraded to Ubuntu 14.10 “Utopic Unicorn”


I took advantage of the first week-end just after Ubuntu release date to upgrade both my desktop (Veriton S661) and my netbook (EEEPC 900) computers. Everything went quite smooth this time, here is a brief report on how the upgrade activities went.

Before to start

Since 14.04 is a LTS release the upgrade to a “ordinary” release must be explicitly enabled in the “Software & Updates” configuration tool.
Also, remembering problems I had last time I updated, I temporarily disabled the screen-lock.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Using HP ScanJet G4050 USB scanner from a VirtualBox guest machine


One of the well known Linux problem is the lack of hardware drivers. I've sometime complained, in the past, about the poor support my HP ScanJet G4050 scanner had on Linux promising myself to try to find a solution using VirtualBox with a Windows guest machine. Fortunately a good enough SANE scanner driver came out and I forgot quickly about my intent. I lived well with my SANE driver recently when I found a bunch of old film negatives. The HP SANE driver works fine and fast but doesn't support the scanner transparent materials adapter (TMA). I so decided to go back to my initial idea about using VirtualBox and a Windows guest machine.

Setting-up VirtualBox

In order to fully support USB devices an extension pack has to be installed in addition to VirtualBox main program. The extension pack version must match with the VirtualBox one. Since the VirtualBox version I used, installed with Ubuntu Software Centre, did not match with any of the available versions I had to download both main program and extension pack.
I first uninstalled the the VirtualBox version I had on my computer then I installed the downloaded “.deb” file. Once the right version was ready I could eventually install the expansion pack from VirtualBox preferences.
The extension pack installation starts asking confirmation first

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Test drive: Ubuntu-Gnome 14.10 “Utopic Unicorn” on the EEEPC


Like every year the Ubuntu (second) upgrade season is coming. Like every year I'm taking e brief test of beta releases in order to have preview of novelties and, most important, possible problems. I downloaded so both the latest Ubuntu-Gnome ISO disk image (Utopic Unicorn Beta 1) and prepared a bootable SD card to test it on the EEEPC.

First impressions

The live disk with Ubuntu-Gnome booted in a reasonable time, welcoming the user with the usual flat-looking Gnome-Shell look
at a first view there are no big news (no news good news especially on old computers) but after a deeper look some interesting novelties appear.
First in the top-right menu a “location” option has been added:

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Test Drive : KDE Plasma 5 on the EEEPC

I like KDE from a theoretical point of view: I especially appreciate its philosophy about flexibility and configuration capabilities. On the other hand, on the practical side, I never felt comfortable using it even if I tried more than once. By the way after reading the recent news about new KDE “Plasma” version 5 I decided it was worth giving it a look.
I so downloaded the “Neon 5 Project” live disk image, based on Kubuntu, available on KDE site and put it on my USB disk using Ubuntu start-up disk creator tool.

First impressions

I tested the newly prepared USB disk both on my desktop computer and on my netbook. KDE worked fine, of course, on the Veriton desktop but I was surprised to find I worked decently even on my old EEEPC.
At boot the EEEPC show an error about a Kwin unexpectedly closing, whatever causes it KDE starts and it seem to work normally.
the desktop is organized in a very traditional way with a functional “start” menu on the lower left:

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Neo4j and Java: demos with an embedded Ne04j graph


After my first experience in installing Neo4j graph database I decided to continue my experiments by writing a little Java demo program. The scope of my program just to learn how to connect to a Neo4j embedded graph, to generate ,connect and query some hundreds of nodes. Neo4j site and the downloaded manual provide plenty of documentation about interfacing with Java, and the other supported languages.

Project set-up

Setting up a Java project is quit simple: just matter of including all Neo4j libraries jars, available in the 'lib' folder, in the project class-path. To make easier future projects set-up I prepared, in Netbeans, a custom library configuration.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Test Drive: Linux Mint 17 “Qiana” on the EEEPC 900


Some time after Ubuntu release also Linux Mint has came out with its latest version: number 17 codenamed “Qiana”. Even if a little late since the release date I decided to give Mint Qiana a quick look by running it live on the EEEPC. I've been a Mint user for a while, what mostly interest me is to observe evolution of Mint desktop: Cinnamon. The EEEPC 900 is getting old and, even if it's still functional, Gnome Shell is getting less responsive every update. I was so thinking about switching to a lighter window manager.

First impressions

Here is how Linux Mint 17 looks like:

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Now something completely different: Neo4j


I've been interested in the variegated world of “NOSQL” databases since a while but I was mostly undecided which one start experimenting with. Most of NOSQL databases give their best in high data volumes, high availability, high scalability, “high everything” use cases. Going to test such databases in a realistic way is not an easy task. Testing them on a EEEPC while traveling by train is definitively impossible. I so concentrated my interest on “Graph Databases”: a kind of NOSQL databases designed to represent data tied by complex and deep relationships, hard to be described by the classic table form.

Neo4j

Among the many, Java based, graph databases the one that got my attention has been Neo4j. Two things made me decide for testing Neo4J: first Neo4J is embeddable in your Java project, the second is the huge amount of documentation and examples available at Neo4j site.

Installation

Installing Neo4j has been quite simple just matter of extracting the downloaded archive into a folder in my home directory (I have a “Projects” folder for this)
tar xv neo4j-community-2.0.3-unix.tar.gz
this is more than enough for a test installation or if you are going to use it only embedded in anoter Java project. Installing a Neo4j server would be a little more more tricky.
Neo4j service can be started by shell using the “neo4j” script provided in the bin directory:
cd Projects/neo4j-community-2.0.3/bin/
./neo4j start
at start it gives a warning about not running it in a Oracle Java JVM but during my tests it worked fine even with OpenJDK JVM. Of course fro a more intense use it'd better follow the suggestion and use the right JVM.
The same script can be used to stop Neo4j service:
./neo4j stop
User interface

Neo4j offers a web based user interface on the “http://localhost:7474” address. The web interface provide an easy way to send commands to Neo4j with the help of a good variety of saved scripts and examples available with one mouse click.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Upgraded to Ubuntu 14.04 … (one way or another)

Ubuntu spring update has arrived, this year coinciding with Easter. As soon I had time I proceeded with upgrading my two computers. The upgrade process has not been as smooth as I'd liked but at the end I managed to have both computer up-to-date.
 

Acer Veriton S661

I started the upgrade process on my desktop computer and, after answering the usual initial “agree” and “confirm”, I left the computer unattended for the long file download part of the upgrade process. When I returned the computer had the screen locked and I couldn't manage to unlock it anymore. After many attempts I decided for the most drastic solution: forcing the computer to restart. The result has been the most drastic too: the computer refused to boot.
I've been so forced to download a Ubuntu disk image and proceed with a full installation. The installation procedure recognized, fortunately, the incomplete Ubuntu set-up and offered a “Reinstall Ubuntu 14.04” option. Re-installation from disk proceeded flawlessly and eventually I got my system mostly restored apart from some custom system files which have been overwritten.
Must be said that, since, I'm not new to similar problems, I have my home folder mounted on a separate partition. So, even if I need to format the boot disk, I have no fear for my data.

EEEPC 900

After the experience of upgrading the desktop computer I disabled the screen-lock on the EEEPC before starting the upgrade application. The upgrade process proceeded without any problems.
The EEEPC works fine with the new Ubuntu-Gnome release but it shows some odd error message during boot I never noticed before:
Sometimes, just after GRUB menu, it gives a worrying message about a malformed file, in addition it shows this message later during the boot process.
[drm:i915_stolen_to_physical] *ERROR* conflict detected with stolen region: [0x7f800000 – 0x80000000]
I'll check soon on the 'net for possible causes of these problems but I could also decide for a fresh install of the whole system.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Java JDK 8 and Netbeans 8 on the EEEPC


With the recent release of the long awaited Java 8 Oracle also released the latest version of its development environment Netbeans. JDK8 and Netbeans have been made available as single updates or together in a bundled package. Since I wasn't fully satisfied from my recent upgrade to Netbeans 7.4 I was more than willing to upgrade.

Installation

The bundled package is in the form of the usual self-executable file Oracle provides to distribute Netbeans installations, let me say the installation process couldn't be easier.
I executed the installation file from shell …
chmod +x jdk-8-nb-8-linux-i586.sh
sudo ./jdk-8-nb-8-linux-i586.sh
the installation wizard started

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Test Drive: Ubuntu-Gnome 14.04 “Trusty Tahr” on the EEEPC 900


It's almost one month before Ubuntu's spring update time. As soon as first alpha then beta releases are made available I take some time to have a look at them. Since the EEEPC is the oldest computer I actually use the first question I ask myself before every upgrade is: “Will the new release work fine on my old netbook?”. I so downloaded the latest (beta-1) available preview of Ubuntu Gnome edition and prepared my USB disk for a brief evaluation.

Yes, It works!

The short answer is: yes, it works. Ubuntu-Gnome booted in the usual featureless screen
Gnome Shell is as responsive as before, the new versions show some (welcome) differences in the application launcher where smaller icons and a different scroll-bar look are used

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Test Drive: BlankOn 9.0 on the EEEPC 900


During one of my frequent visits to DistroWatch I happened to notice the post informing of the latest release of BlankOn: a Debian derived Indonesian Linux distribution. I, usually, don't care much about “National” distributions, they are interesting initiatives but often lack of support if you live outside their “target” country. What in this case caught my attention has been the custom panel interface resembling, in DistroWatch screen-shots, the “good” old netbook interface I used for years.
I so downloaded BlankOn ISO Image; it took a little to me find the right link since BlankOn site is only in Indonesian language, eventually I found it by following the “big blue button”. I then prepared a bootable USB disk using UNetbootin and re-booted my EEEPC.

First impressions

BlankOn desktop is based on Gnome Shell, it opens with plain screen with only a panel at the to side.
by clicking in the BlankOn logo in the upper-left corner the side panel is activated.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Video editing on Linux: Lightworks


I often use my desktop computer for editing family videos even if I do this at a very amateur level. Wile I mostly produce “animated slide-show” videos, every now and then I adventure into the “real” video editing field. Until now I used OpenShot: I appreciate mostly its clean and easy to use user interface. Unfortunately, with my current desktop configuration, OpenShot appears to e quite unstable crashing without any clue especially before video preview.
I so decided to explore the panorama of available Linux video editing in order to find a proper replacement to OpenShot
Lightworks is one of the video editing software that received many positive reviews among many blogs I visited so I decided to give it a try.

Lighworks

Lightworks is a closed source software, both a free and a payment version are available, but limitations on the free version don't prevent you from a amateur level use. I so downloaded the “.deb” installation package and installed it by just double-clicking on the installation file.

Registration

When you download Lightworks you are asked to log-in or register to Lightworks site. Registration, which is free, is not mandatory to download the file but it is mandatory to activate and start the program.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

10 000 Thanks (again)

I realized that my counter reached the symbolic milestone of 10000 hits since I restarted my blog on the Blogspot platform. So ten-thousands thanks to all my visitors and readers and ... stay tuned!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Netbeans 7.4 on the EEEPC 900

It has been a while since last time I wrote about Netbeans installation on the EEEPC 900. I usually use Eclipse as my preferred Java IDE, both at work and at home, but on the nine inch EEEPC display Eclipse has too many parts falling off-screen. I so started using Netbeans on the EEEPC and, as the time passed, I learned appreciating it.


Installation


Installing Netbeans on Linux is quite simple: I downloaded the installation script made it executable and started it like following:
chmod +x netbeans-7.4-javase-linux.sh
sudo ./netbeans-7.4-javase-linux.sh
Then I just followed the wizard instructions: