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The Best of Both Worlds (Linux Mint and Windows XP on my computer)

Sunday · 20 Jan 08 · 09:05 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Tech

For the past few weeks I had only Ubuntu Linux on my laptop.  Everything worked fine and I was very happy with all the applications that I'd installed (and got for free, by the way).  There was only one program that I wasn't able to run — Doom Builder.

Doom Builder Error when running under WINE

I'd taken out my Doom Collector's Edition CD and copied the IWAD files off of it.  With ZDoom running under WINE, I was able to play Doom well.  But Doom Builder did not work (error above: something about not being able to create a pointer), and I felt lost without a level editor!  How was I going to make maps now?  I tried installing other editors.  The Windows version of SLADE did not run through WINE (was giving some weird drawing error on screen), and from a few forums, I understood that getting it to run on Linux would mean I'd have to compile it myself.

Finally, I gave up and decided that having a dual boot system, with both Windows XP and Linux was the way to go.  Since I was going to mess with installing stuff anyway, I decided to try another Linux distribution, called Linux Mint (this is based on the recommendation of two people — Krish Ashok and Karteek E).  Mint is actually based on Ubuntu, but the difference is that it comes with more multimedia codecs installed.  I downloaded the latest Mint version (4.0 "Daryna") through a torrent, and wrote that onto a CD, and then booted my computer with it, to try it out.  As expected, there were no problems.  All my hardware was detected, and I was very pleased to have a usable system, with the operating system running off a CD!  But Mint went one step further.  It was supposed to be a more multimedia-oriented distro, right?  So, without installing anything I simply opened up a YouTube page (obviously, it was this one) in Firefox.  The video played back nicely!  I was very impressed and confident that I'd made the right decision in "upgrading" from Ubuntu to Mint.  I booted back into my existing Ubuntu install, copied the contents of my home directory onto my external hard disk.  I had a hard drive that was ready to be wiped out now and was armed with the Mint CD and the Windows XP CD that came with my laptop.

At this point, Varun came in as well.  He'd tinkered around with his computer, and played with bootloaders a bit earlier.  He has a dual boot system with Windows XP and Fedora 8, so he has experience in messing with partitions.  Now, we set about "reconfiguring" my computer.  Obviously, if you're doing something like this, you have to install Windows first.  So the XP CD went in, and the following partitions were created —

  • C: [FAT32 partition, 10 GB]
  • D: [FAT32 partition, 30 GB]
  • E: [roughly 40 GB]

The operating system was installed on C: and it took a good 40 minutes or so for this to complete.  I was laughing out at some of the marketing text that appears during the install — "Internet Explorer 6 is the most secure and reliable way to surf the web", the stuff about DRM, etc.  Anyway, once Windows XP was installed, it was time to load Mint.

Installing Linux Mint

Mint has a very nice, polished desktop as you can see above.  The tagline, "From freedom came elegance" suits well!  Anyway, there was a little "Install" icon on the desktop, which when double-clicked, began the install process.  Mint uses the same user-friendly installer as Ubuntu ("Ubiquity").  After selecting the keyboard layout and the timezone options, it asked where the OS was to be installed.

Installing Linux Mint — Partitioning

We chose the "manual" mode of partitioning the disk, then deleted the last partition (the E:, here referred to as /dev/sda6).  We re-allocated around 36 GB for the Linux OS and the rest of the space for Linux swap.  The next prompt really surprised me though —

Installing Linux Mint

Yes, it actually detected the Windows install on the other partition, and asked whether I wanted to import my documents and settings into the new OS!  Great!  However, as that was a fresh install of Windows, there wasn't anything I wanted to import anyway.  The install proceeded after that and quite soon I had a dual boot system with both Windows XP and Linux Mint on it!  GRUB is the bootloader that was installed and it allows me to choose which OS to boot on startup.

The way I'm working now is, the middle partition (D: on Windows, and /dev/sda5 on Linux) is where I am storing everything.  This way, all my stuff (MP3s, images, whatever) is accessible in both operating systems.  I later installed Doom and Doom Builder on Windows, and installed the msttcorefonts on Linux.  I also got some nice themes for Linux.

So, I am able to edit Doom maps now under Windows XP —

Doom Builder on Windows XP

And, this is my Linux Mint desktop as it looks now —

My Linux Mint Desktop

With both these operating systems on my laptop, I couldn't be happier!  It really is the best of both worlds.

16 comment(s) for this post.

Watch me draw "Fight Club" on YouTube

Wednesday · 16 Jan 08 · 04:27 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Art

A new drawing has been added to the site.  And to accompany that, there is a video that has been uploaded on YouTube.  The video shows me drawing this picture!

Karthik Drawing Fight Club on YouTube

You can click the above image, or here to go to the YouTube page and watch the video.  Once you've done that, click here to see the complete drawing.  Comments welcome!

3 comment(s) for this post.

Best Movies of 2007, my picks

Sunday · 13 Jan 08 · 05:11 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Movies

A lot of people have come up with their "best of" and "top 10" lists for 2007, and here is one of mine!  This is a list of my picks for the Best Movies of 2007.  Of course, this is entirely my opinion, and these movies are selected from the ones that I watched in 2007.  So here we go!

300 and Sunshine

Best Movies of 2007: 300, Sunshine

300, Zack Snyder's adaptation of the Frank Miller comic book was a much anticipated movie after its excellent trailer was released towards the end of 2006.  I got to see this in the theatre a little late, as I was in Chennai at the time and it was released there a couple of weeks after coming out in other cities!  Anyway, it's a very dramatic and action packed movie, with artistic scenes of bloody violence.  Many people I knew were surprised when I told them much of the movie was computer generated.  Sunshine, Danny Boyle's science fiction film about a group of astronauts re-igniting our dying sun was thrilling and had stunning visuals and music.  Sure, it was not 100% original (you'll recognise elements from 2001 and Event Horizon in the later parts), and the last third was kind of out of tone with the rest of the film, but to me it is still one of the best films I saw in 2007.

Zodiac and Hot Fuzz

Best Movies of 2007: Zodiac, Hot Fuzz

David Fincher's Zodiac was a detailed look at a 40-year police case and the people involved in it.  While not Fincher's best movie (that honour, in my opinion goes to Fight Club), this is still an amazing film.  I loved Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, so was eagerly waiting to watch their next movie Hot Fuzz, which was an homage to action movies.  It's a very well done movie which is both funny and action packed.

Saw IV and The Bourne Ultimatum

Best Movies of 2007: Saw IV, The Bourne Ultimatum

Two main characters were killed off by the end of Saw III.  With that, how does one continue the series?  Not only did they make an involving thriller with Saw IV, there's even room for them to make further movies in the series.  While, by this point, the movies in the Saw series depend a lot on coincidences and Rube Goldberg-type scenarios, they're still very well done thrillers and far more intelligent than standard horror movie franchises.  Another sequel worth noting is Paul Greengrass's The Bourne Ultimatum.  This is a two hour chase movie that barely lets you breathe, and it has an interesting plot too.  Very nicely done.

And the BEST MOVIE OF 2007, in my opinion, is:

Best Movies of 2007: Grindhouse

There's so much about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's collaboration, Grindhouse that makes it a remarkable work — the two individual movies are both excellent (Planet Terror was incredible, and while I didn't like Death Proof as much the first time I saw it, it grew on me on repeated viewing), and the fake trailers that they put in are also great.  I loved the whole thing.

Best Movie, Hindi:
Chak De! India

Best Movies of 2007: Chak De! India

Had I seen Taare Zameen Par in 2007 (instead of on 1 Jan 08), it would be part of this list.  But as it stands, Shimit Amin's Chak De! India is a very well made movie and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Hence, I got the two-disc DVD they released, subsequently!

Best Movie, Telugu:
Happy Days

Best Movies of 2007: Happy Days

Simple and entertaining movie about college life from director Sekhar Kammula.  It has excellent songs too.

Best Movie, Tamil:
Chennai 600028

Best Movies of 2007: Chennai 600028

I watched this movie twice in theatres, and both times, were not in Chennai (one was in Madurai, and the other time was in Coimbatore, both times I had gone for Campus Recruitments)!  Anyway, it's another very nice comedy/drama about friends and cricket.  Songs (Yuvan Shankar Raja) are amazing too.

And then, here is a list of the best OLDER movies, which I got to see in 2007 —

  • Clerks II (2006)
  • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
  • The Prestige (2006)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • The Fountain (2006)
  • John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness (1987)
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
  • Contact (1997)
  • John Carpenter's Halloween (1978)
  • The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1968)

Well, there you have it.  Comments welcome!

21 comment(s) for this post.

Windows Fonts under Linux!

Saturday · 12 Jan 08 · 08:57 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Tech

Some days ago, I was browsing Synaptic Package Manager for some free fonts to install on my Ubuntu Linux system.  The default ones that are installed with the OS and with are good.  But I thought of getting some more as well.  Imagine my surprise, when I saw a package entitled msttcorefonts, which allows one to install the Microsoft Core Fonts for the Web, under Linux!

Back in 1996 it seems, Microsoft started a project to develop a set of standard fonts designed for use on the web.  Looks like they were successful too.  After all, how many websites do you find which stray far from using Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet MS and Georgia as their typefaces?  Most designers use these fonts under the assumption that they'll be available on most systems.  It's all well and good on Windows, but these fonts aren't available by default on all operating systems.

When I installed Ubuntu on my computer, initially, webpages were displayed in the default font selected on Firefox.  Later on, I set the preferences to make the fonts closer to what I liked.  I set the default sans-serif font to FreeSans, which could be thought of as an alternative to Arial (actually, it is more similar to Helvetica, which is in my opinion, a more elegant font than Arial).  This way, many webpages looked similar to what their designers intended, but not all.  But that changed, when I saw the msttcorefonts package and installed it.

Installing the Microsoft Core Fonts for the Web under Ubuntu

This is very simple.  All you have to do is to open your Synaptic Package Manager, and search for msttcorefonts.  Select that package, and it will also prompt you to install something called cabextract.  Select this, and choose "Apply Changes", and sit back and wait a while.

Installing the Microsoft Core Fonts under Ubuntu

Though these fonts are free, Ubuntu's license prevents them being freely distributed with the OS itself.  msttcorefonts is somewhat like a dummy installer, essentially, it downloads each font from a repository.  These are distributed as EXE files which internally contain CAB (Microsoft Cabinet) files.  Using cabextract these fonts are extracted and installed on your system.  Of course, this is all done automatically and once completed, you'll have an extended set of fonts on your system.  This includes all your old friends, like Arial, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, Verdana, Georgia, Impact and even the often-ridiculed Comic Sans MS.

A few examples

Below are a few examples on how things change, after installing these fonts.  First up, an example for my site itself.  Peek at this picture —

MS Fonts on Linux:

That's three versions of text on the main page.  At the top, you have the text rendered in DejaVu Sans, the default sans-serif font on Firefox.  Next, the text is rendered in FreeSans (I had customised my preferences to that).  The last bit shows the text in Arial.

Next example is my brother Varun's website.  Now, this being a portfolio site and the fact that Varun is quite particular about aesthetics, the typeface is something essential to the overall look of the site.  He uses Trebuchet MS as the main font on the site.

MS Fonts on Linux:

On top is the DejaVu Sans version, then the FreeSans version and finally, the way it was intended to render, in Trebuchet MS.  (Note: Look at the text not the heading "About".)

MS Fonts on Linux: orkut

Above is orkut, with the text rendered in Verdana, as intended.  However, not all sites are designed with Arial or Verdana in mind.  Two sites I frequent, which didn't considerably change their appearance even after installing the MS fonts, are Wikipedia and Slashdot.  On these two sites, the text is rendered in the default sans-serif typeface, as per your browser's setting, and that is Arial on most Windows systems.  It's FreeSans on mine, so here's what those two sites look like —

MS Fonts on Linux: Wikipedia

MS Fonts on Linux: Slashdot

Personally, I like the way they look, as it's refreshing to see FreeSans as opposed to Arial every now and then.  I also wanted to try and experiment with these fonts on Office documents.  So, I opened up and created a document, using these fonts.  I mailed that to Varun and then opened it on Microsoft Word on his computer, and took a screenshot.  See the comparison below —

MS Fonts on Linux:

MS Fonts on Linux: Microsoft Word

Top one is the document in, and bottom one is in Microsoft Word.  You can also install other TrueType fonts on Linux.  So, you could simply copy fonts from a Windows system (say, the "C" fonts of Windows Vista — Calibri, Cambria, Constantia, Corbel, and the like) and install them on Linux, and enjoy the expanded font set.  Obviously, the way they render would be still slightly different on Linux than Windows, depending on the font smoothing method used.  On my Ubuntu install there are four ways of rendering fonts, and I have set it to the Subpixel smoothing method.  On Windows I used to have ClearType turned on.  Anyway, by doing all this, most webpages look very similar to the way they would look on a Windows system.

13 comment(s) for this post.

Two Linux Tips — Playing VCDs, DHCP settings

Monday · 7 Jan 08 · 03:21 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Tech

Ever since shifting exclusively to Linux (Ubuntu Linux 7.10, "Gutsy Gibbon" is what I am running currently), I thought I'd document whatever steps I took to solve certain problems I encountered.  Of course, you could go and look at the same websites I did and find workarounds for what you want to do, but I thought my writing about my experiences might still be helpful.  So here are two tips that I discovered recently.

I mentioned in the last post that I bought a bunch of VCDs yesterday, right?  Well, I ran into trouble playing them on my computer.  Totem Movie Player pops up an error, saying that the playback of the disc required the VCD source protocol which was not installed properly.  Huh?  So I tried playing it back in VLC and that didn't work either.  I tried playing it through VLC's Open Disc menu, and I also tried opening the DAT files with the players.  Didn't work.  A little hunting on the net turned up two solutions —

  • Open up Synaptic Package Manager and install MPlayer and associated codecs.  Now, put in your VCD, right-click on MPlayer's Video Window, go to the VCD menu and click "Open Disc".  You will get a popup with an error message, but the disc will still playback fine!
  • I had best results with this though.  Install the XINE player and associated codecs.  That plays back VCDs properly.

I was kind of surprised that VCDs would have trouble playing back in Linux.  After all, they're just MPEG encoded video, and you could play them back effortlessly even on Windows 95!  I don't think the issue is that the media players lack MPEG codecs.  I think it has more to do with the fact that they're not able to recognise that the DAT files on the VCDs contain MPEG data (I could be wrong though).  Anyway for now I'm happy that I can play back these VCDs.  A side note — the Video CD is still a popular format in India and in Asian countries.  It just didn't pick up in other countries (I think in the US, they went directly from VHS to DVD), but here you get lots of movies released on VCD even till today.  Now many of these are obscure movies that you won't get on DVD either, over here!

Now for Tip #2!  This is regarding configuring my internet connection.  You see, if I plug in my network cable, I'm not able to directly browse webpages.  I have to go to the Network Configuration tool (System » Administration » Network) and then enter my ISP's DNS IP addresses manually.  Then, things work fine.  I've even saved these settings as a Location under that tool.  But the problem is that these settings aren't persistent.  Whenever I restart the computer (or even when the computer wakes up from hibernation), these settings revert to defaults (the only DNS IP is that of my router itself,  So I searched around for a way to retain these settings, and this post gave me a solution.

Apparently, the nameserver IPs are stored in a file called resolv.conf, and the problem is that each time the computer restarts/wakes up, the router is queried or something by DHCP, and the file is overwritten with the default nameserver IP.  So, one way to make the IP settings persistent is to make resolv.conf read-only, but that is a pretty ugly method.  A better way is to follow the third method on that page.  Here, what you are essentially doing, is to tell DHCP to prepend your ISP's known nameserver IPs to resolv.conf.  This worked well for me, and I think my pages load faster too!  Step-by-step, here's what you do —

  • Open up the file dhclient.conf in a text editor.  You'd enter the following command in a Terminal window: sudo gedit /etc/dhcp3/dhclient.conf
  • Now, there should be a line over there that looks something like this: # prepend domain-name-servers;
  • What you do is, you simply remove the hash on the beginning of the line, and enter your ISPs DNS IPs after that.  If you have more than one IP, separate with a comma.  My entry looks like this: prepend domain-name-servers,; (don't forget the semicolon at the end)
  • Save the file and then re-enable your network connection, and that's it.  I restarted my computer and the first thing I did after it booted up was to open Firefox.  I was able to access webpages.

Note: Since I am running Ubuntu, I have described the steps that worked for me, if you are using another Linux distribution, you should be able to follow similar steps to achieve these results.  I have another big Linux-related post coming up shortly.  That one is on using Windows fonts under Linux!

13 comment(s) for this post.

Recent Movie Updates

Monday · 7 Jan 08 · 01:45 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Movies

The next movie-related post over here will be my picks for the Best Movies of 2007.  But, before that, here are some other movie-related updates —

Movies Watched Recently

  • Go — No, not the Doug Liman movie, this one is from Ram Gopal Varma's production house and is about a couple (played by Gautham and Nisha Kothari) who elope and get involved with some corrupt government officials and corrupt cops.  This sat unreleased for many months and later got a brief theatrical release, and I watched it on DVD.  The movie is quite bad and there isn't any reason to recommend it though it kind of picks up some steam in the second half.  The songs are utterly unmemorable.  I wasted Rs 199 in buying this DVD.
  • Taare Zameen Par — Had I watched this in December 2007, it would have been part of my Best Movies of 2007 list.  Now I guess it'll go to the Best Movies I saw in 2008, as I watched this on Jan 1.  An extraordinary film from director Aamir Khan, featuring him as a teacher who helps a dyslexic eight year old boy cope with life in a boarding school.  It's extremely well acted and photographed, and I loved the songs too.  They really outdid themselves with this movie, no wonder it's on the IMDb Top 250 (I believe it's the first Bollywood movie to make it there).
  • Eastern Promises — Another unique film from director David Cronenberg about a nurse (Naomi Watts) who delivers the child of a teenage girl.  The girl dies during childbirth, but the nurse finds a diary on her, which contains secrets concerning a very powerful Russian mafia family.  Viggo Mortensen's performance is excellent.
  • No Smoking — Never thought I would see a Hindi movie like this!  Anurag Kashyap wrote and directed this awesome movie with John Abraham as K, a guy who is addicted to smoking.  When his wife threatens to leave him, he pays a visit to Baba Bengali's Prayogshala, which is supposed to cure one of any addiction.  Soon, K's reality is turned upside down and a very surreal movie ensues.  I can't say I understood the point Kashyap was trying to make (and what happens ultimately to K), but this is a very well made and extremely entertaining movie.  Three articles on this movie you could read: a review, Anurag Kashyap's write-up on his movie, and three interpretations of the movie (contains spoilers, so don't read if you haven't seen the movie).  I would suggest going into the movie without reading much about it, that way you'll have a lot more fun.

Yesterday, I went out and bought a bunch of movies on DVD and VCD (No Smoking was one of those DVDs I got).  Here is a list —

  • Chak De! India (2 Disc), No Smoking, Manorama Six Feet Under and 3 Deewarein were the DVDs I got.
  • On VCD I got this old horror movie called Purana Mandir (yes!) and Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag (I know everyone said the movie was very bad so I bought it out of curiosity, besides, VCD was Rs 38 only).
  • Then, I bought a bunch of these VCDs released by Moser Baer — Ticker, Slayground, The Dead Hate the Living, Shriek, Curse of the Puppet Master, The Creeps and The Punisher (the 1989 one).  All these are on a single VCD, and some of these movies are more than 90 minutes long, so they are probably using a lower audio bitrate or something to fit those onto one VCD.

According to the reviews of Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, the movie is quite bad.  Which is a sad thing, since the trailer made it look like it was going to right all that was wrong with the original Alien vs Predator!  I was eagerly looking forward to watching that movie after the trailer, now I still want to see it, out of curiosity.  Finally, have you guys seen the trailer for Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay?  You can have a look at it on the official site itself.  It is amazing stuff.  It looks like this movie is going to be nothing short of awesome.

1 comment(s) for this post.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday · 1 Jan 08 · 02:45 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: General

Hey!  Happy New Year people!

It has been customary for the last few years that I put up a New Year Card on my site on Jan 1.  This time is no different, but this year's card does not contain a photo or a drawing or a comic.  It contains a short film.

New Year's Day, a short film directed by Karthik and Varun Abhiram

Click on the image to have a look at this year's card!

2 comment(s) for this post.
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The Author

Karthik Abhiram

27-year old Taurean (birthday 15-May-82), Assistant Manager - HR at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd in Hyderabad, India.  Previously, did Post Graduate Diploma in Management from T A Pai Management Institute (2003-05) and before that, Computer Science Engineering from Sree Nidhi Institute of Science and Technology (1999-2003).

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