Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thoughts on my Google Chromebook Pixel 2013

I jumped in joy when Google released the Chrome browser. It is a piece of software that changed the computing world rapidly. It had maximized screen viewing area, it set new standards in HTML, it set limits for browsing speeds, brought new video codecs to usage and finally became a trojan horse in the Microsoft Empire. Believe it or not, people live more time in the Chrome world than in the actual operating system world. Soon, the browser became OS agnostic, and lots of people migrated into the MAC OS world. Chrome terminated the dominance of IE in a short time. It is so popular and successful like its original project leader who is now the CEO of Google.

When it was released I had a major gripe that it was not released for Linux operating systems. It was the heyday of netbooks and Chrome was needed in them. Sensing the obvious, Google released a netbook with just Chrome in it and called it Chromebook. I had even applied for the Chromebook testing program in which Google gave away a Samsung Chromebook to initial users. I wasn’t the lucky few who got one. Later, in 2013 Google released a Chromebook with the highest imaginable specs, that it can hardly be called a netbook. Chromebook Pixel was born in Menlo Park which would soon become a toy of rich geeks. Even Linus loved it. Even now, I think, its screen in unrivalled in terms of pixel density and colour reproduction. I simply fell in love with this machine and waited till I could afford one. And 3 years after its release I could lay my hands on a 2013 (Ist gen. model). The screen needs just one word to describe it: Gorgeous

The concept of the Chromebook is brilliant, a lightweight computer which just the minimalistic body of computing while the soul lives somewhere in the cloud. The “Chrome” is this link between this body and soul. It's beautiful in that the body is never important, and guardian angel “Chrome” updates itself in Google’s command, keeping the system safe and snappy. I love the concept of having a computer in which you never have to really install programs in the classical sense, no .exes, no Photoshop, no MS Word. The moment you switch on, a secure browser is ready to serve you web services and your soul comes alive with your documents, photos, music and videos. Google has created a new paradigm in computing rather than competing with MS for market share.

Now to my experiences as a loyal Google fanboy. Chromebook Pixel was great, I loved seeing it, touching it, and not so much using it. Like many bloggers and tech enthusiasts have already put it, it's really hard to find a 100% usage of your Chromebook (Pixel in my case). Its biggest advantage is also its disadvantage, there are no programs that live in the computer for simple tasks. For simple tasks like editing an MP3 tag, there was no tool, I had to upload all my music to Google Play Music, rename and then download. For a minor photo edit, I had to upload the photo to a cloud photo editor and then download it. Remote desktops worked fine and I could connect my laptop running Elementary OS with ease. Google docs and Google productivity suite was the main reason for me buying this laptop. Google docs was impressive in the Chromebook Pixel as it should be. I could create offline documents, work on documents offline and sync once connected. The audio quality was simply gorgeous as its screen(this is the first gen. Chromebook Pixel), rich in bass, clear and loud. The screen had nothing else to compare. The touchscreen which is obviously a fingerprint magnet is still a pleasure to use especially for scrolling. The screen form factor of 2:3 is the most sensible choice for using the web for reading and being productive.

I had very little hate over the abundant love I had for my Chromebook Pixel. I tried every possible use for my Chromebook and the experience was positively very different. Finally, I had to give up my Chromebook Pixel not because of my hate but because of a hardware failure in the gorgeous screen. The most beautiful part the Chromebook Pixel had some horizontal lines, a rare manufacturing defect. Since I had bought it in Hong Kong where this piece of hardware is not sold legally, I could not get it fixed by Google. I could have tried third party services to replace my the panel, but I decided to let it go, to avoid many hassles.

Given my first experience with the Chromebook Pixel, I still would like to go for the newer versions. The Pixel C is an evolution in this lineage where the Chrome meets Android. I would love to try this beauty sooner or later. I believe in the marvellous innovation in technology by Google despite it not being "not evil” anymore. I have to admit, I am a simple stupid Google fanboy.

Monday, January 16, 2017

No Times New Roman in Google Docs

A self confessed Google fan boy, I own a Pixel Chromebook 2013. I planned to use it for all my office work,  to replace Microsoft Office products. I am amazed by the vision of Google to have everything tied to the cloud. It makes good sense to move your work to something independent of any OS or even a physical storage. It feels really cool that you you don't have to install any program but still get all your work done with your browser. 

It was quite a revelation to me when I read two write-ups (the other one) today of how Google fooled people in thinking that what they use as Times New Roman (in Google Docs) as Times New Roman. When you use Times New Roman to type something in Google Docs, it actually displays "Tinos" a font which Google says is metric compatible with Times New Roman and released under Apache license. To the untrained eye, it is hard to believe. So I set to test it with comparison with Times New Roman, as produced by Microsoft Word.  To me Tinos looks much closer to Liberation Serif which is mostly used in Libreoffice. I also compared Tinos with Liberation Serif. 

Times New Roman vs. Tinos

Times New Roman vs. Liberation Serif

Liberation Serif vs. Tinos

Comparing all three in Lorem ispum dolor sit amet

Google has remedied the situation somehow probably by a font licence agreement with Microsoft such that if you download a PDF, it comes out to be Times New Roman.  It makes sense because when you want to print from Google Docs, it automatically downloads the document as PDF. But what you see while typing with Google Docs is actually Tinos and Google doesn't tell you that. If you download the document in docx, and forward it to your supervisor or colleague, they wouldn't get Times New Roman as how this student had to get less grades because he could not use Times New Roman as per his school rules. Google is to be blamed than anyone else in this case. Another case of loosing grades here. Mighty Google are you willing to help students using Chromebooks?

In my opinion, Tinos which is a part of Croscore fonts  (Chrome OS core) is very much similar to Liberation Serif fonts (see comparison above). So people working with Liberatoin Serif under Libreoffice under Linux systems get similar looking fonts as Tinos in Google Docs.

I goes without saying that what you see you as "Arial" in Google Docs is nothing but "Arimo". I will do a comparison between Arial and Arimo in the next article. However, I am guessing the difference would be hard to detect because they are 'Sans serif' fonts. 

Here is a PDF version for printing of the fonts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How to install system load indicator / monitor to Elementary OS 0.4 Loki

Elementary OS 0.4 codenamed Loki is a Linux distribution worthy of much praise. It is lightweight, stable and based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS release, meaning the repositories would host of a lot of updated packages. However, the GUI of Elemantary OS, Pantheon Desktop Environment, does not have a system monitor included. You can install Gnome system monitor, but it doesn't look good on the Pantheon user interface.

A simple way is to install, the system load indicator called indicator-multiload which is lightweight and meets most of the requirements of a system monitor. Most importantly It blends well with the Pantheon wing panel on the top of the desktop. To install it we need to add the PPA (Personal Package Archive) called indicator-multiload.

For ease of use, just follow the commands below.

sudo add-apt-repository -y ppa:indicator-multiload/stable-daily

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt install indicator-multiload

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to install Latex typesetting package in Ubuntu 14.04 / Debian Jessie

Latex is the probably the best typesetting package available. Though the learning curve is high, the benefits of using Latex outweighs several other programs. First of all its free, available on all platforms. The way it handles whitespaces is logical. There are lots of graphical backends for actually typing and creating Latex documents.

Latex is packaged as texlive packages for Ubuntu and Debian.

The barebone packages used for installing and using Latex in Ubuntu/Debian systems are: texlive-latex-base, texlive-latex-extra, texlive-fonts-recommended (for special font packages such as marvosym.sty etc)

sudo apt-get install texlive-latex-base texlive-latex-extra texlive-fonts-recommended

For creating documents you need can also install a good Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Latex. The options are lots such as Texmaker, Texworks and Kile. My personal favourite is Texworks for its simplicity and lightweightedness. Kile is also a very good Latex editor for KDE.

sudo apt-get install texworks

If you want to use beamer for presentations:

sudo apt-get install latex-beamer

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How to install Adobe flashplayer from .tar.gz from adobe website

Though Adobe flash is getting less and less popular with the rise of HTML5 for online video content, it is still an integral part of the web. Adobe pushes security updates to its 11.2.202.XXX version of flashplayer even though it has pledged not to update it to newer version numbers.

Popular Linux distros offer easy ways to install and update the non-free Adobe flash plugin. For example Ubuntu lets you install Flash through a package called 'flashplugin-installer'. Similarly Linux Mint offers 'mint-flashplugin'. The problem with these install scripts is that they don't work well when you are behind a company or university's proxy settings (sometimes even after you set your proxy environment according to this blog). The way to setup proxy to your wget is given here and here. But even after trying those, my mintupdate-flash was not able to fetch the latest flash though it informed me of an update that is available (on my Linuxmint Debian Edition install).

So I had to resort to installing it manually by downloading the binary from Adobe's website. The method I followed was pretty much based on this thread as per user IgnitE's post. This blogpost also tells us how to install flashplayer for Debian based distros.

I'll summarize what I did to install Adobe flashplayer from Adobe's website and it works for an update as well as a fresh install of flashplayer from Adobe directly.

First go to Abode flash download page, choose the updated version as .tar.gz version. Make sure you choose the 64-bit version or 32-bit version according to the Linux installation you have. The download usually goes to the Downloads folder in your home directory(~).

Make a directory under ~/Downloads to place the untarred files

mkdir adobeflash

Untar the contents into it

tar -xzf install_flash_player_11_linux*.tar.gz -C adobeflash/

Change to the directory where the files are untarred

cd adobeflash

Now there would be: /usr, libflashplayer.so and readme.txt files in the untarred folder. We have to copy the /usr and libflashplayer.so to the appropriate directories for the install process.


sudo cp -r usr/* /usr

If you are in Debian or Ubuntu prior to 14.04 i.e., 13.10 and below follow the below command (Yes, it works for both Firefox and Iceweasel).

sudo cp libflashplayer.so /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/

IF you are in Ubuntu 14.04 or above, then use the following command

sudo cp libflashplayer.so /usr/lib/firefox/browser/plugins

Restart the browser and you have the latest flash installed, check it by right clicking flash content or by clicking here.

Apart from this you can get the Google updated Pepper flash by installing Google Chrome. But for now, I would prefer to use the flashplugin provided by Adobe in Firefox and Chromium.

PS.: The problem of mintupdate for flash was not due to wget proxy problem, but due to the fact that linux mint software repository mirror has been clogged due to heavy usage. When I changed the software update repositories from the mint update manager (Software updates - Edit - Preferences - Update sources; change the mirrors to something else than the default) and refreshed the cache, I was able to install mintflash update properly even under my proxy settings. So it is better to check your repo mirrors before trying the method mentioned above. Otherwise the update manager would still be showing an update unless you unistall the mint-flashplugin package.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to create new users in Ubuntu/ Debian and delete them

Creating new users is the probably the most basic task in a linux system. Though there are lot of forum posts which help you in this, I am going to post once again for someone who might benefit from it.

For this posting, we shall call this new user as 'tedy'. So be sure to substitute this user with your username.

To create a new user:

sudo useradd -m tedy

adding -m flag will create a home directory for 'tedy'  as well.

When the user is created there is no password for him/her

So, issue the following command to create a password for the new user 'tedy'

sudo passwd tedy

Now if you want 'tedy' to be an administrator or superuser or root you have to add him to the group "sudo", for this:

sudo adduser tedy sudo

Now we have to specify which shell tedy should use, we specify that in case your distro cannot map it directly

sudo chsh -s /bin/bash tedy

That's it you have created a brand new user account with superuser powers

The simplest way of removing our new user 'tedy' involves two commands

sudo userdel tedy

then remove his home totally

sudo rm -r /home/tedy

You might need to delete or add new users to test a new gui settings of a beta distribution which gets updated daily.

The default user created in Ubuntu will be a part of several groups such as adm, cdrom, lpadmin etc so we need to add our new user tedy to those groups in case he has to act as the same user created by Ubuntu by default during install.

sudo usermod -a -G adm,cdrom,lpadmin,sudo,sambashare,dip,plugdev tedy

Friday, December 28, 2012

Installing Samba and sharing files within a home or office network

There are innumerable tutorials to explain sharing a folder, a partition or a disk drive using samba. Here's one more, it doesn't hurt, on the contrary it may help someone.

The best way to use old laptops and desktops is by installing a Linux distro and experimenting with it as a file server. After you install the OS and later ssh, samba, remote desktop, apache etc., you can add it to the network and do all the rest with another computer through remote desktop or ssh.

I used Linux Mint 14, Nadia, which is superb, in terms of quality, functionality, ease and aesthetics. In my scenario, I have mounted the storage partition as /D in my Linux Mint box. For this tutorial, we are going to use an ordinary user named "john" who's password will be needed to login to the samba network.

I am going to tell you how to install samba and share your folder step by step:

1) Install samba

sudo apt-get install samba

2) Stop samba in case it is running

sudo /etc/init.d/samba stop

3) Backup your default samba config file smb.conf (this step is optional)

sudo mv /etc/samba/smb.conf /etc/samba/smb.conf.backup

4) Under home or any location create a new smb.conf using, vi, nano, emacs, gedit, or kate

the contents looks like this:

path = /D
available = yes
valid users = john
read only = no
browsable = yes
public = yes
writable = yes


i) What does [test] mean ? Your shared folder will be called test in the network, but you can use any name as you like

ii) What is /D? It is the path is the path to the folder you want to share e.g if you want to share a newdirectory in home, it would be /home/john/newdirectory
In my case, I mounted the NTFS D partition (of windows) as /D so I used it.

iii) Who is john? john is a user whose credentials will be needed to login to the shared folder. john can be replaced by any name you want to use.

Save the smb.conf file.

5) Copy your created smb.conf to its right workplace

sudo cp smb.conf /etc/samba

6) Change permissions of the shared folder in case it does not have read-write permission to all users
sudo chmod 0777 /D

7) Add a user with access rights to the samba share

Create user john without a home (i.e., /home/john) using /bin/true feature

sudo useradd -s /bin/true john

Create password for john (optional), if you don't want to use john as normal user login, you can skip this step

sudo passwd john

8) Make sure you add john to group plugdev

sudo usermod -a -G plugdev john

9) Create a samba password same as above (same as login password) to avoid confusion

sudo smbpasswd -a john

9) Test the parameters

sudo testparm

10) Restart samba

sudo restart smbd

VoilĂ  samba

Check your folder in your Linux (under network) or windows network (under Workgroup). Enter username john and password, now your old computer is a silent new file server.

To stop sharing and removing samba:

1) Stop samba

sudo stop smbd

2) Delete user

sudo userdel -r john


sudo apt-get remove samba --purge

PS: I personally feel running a computer as a server continuously for trivial functions is a huge waste of power. So shut down your "server" whenever you won't use it for extended periods of time. Everytime you start the computer, samba will come alive and serve your folders and files.