November 27, 2006

My first ILUG

Oh God!What a day it was....

On Sunday the 26th of November 2006,I and Nikil went for our first ILUG Cochin Chapter meeting.I had raised great objections to this meeting from the start as our exams were set to begin by 5th dec and I haven't covered portions enough.But by Nikil's pressure I accepted the offer and we met at Menaka by 2 pm.

The it was a tough job to find the old building in which the meeting was held...

When we entered it,what I saw was an old fashioned building housing an internet cafe` with many old furniture and wooden roof.The lighting suggested a kind of intellectual workplace,which actually it was.Two guys looking like nerds,one bearded and the other with a kinda stressed look were talking.We introduced ourselves and entered and took our seat.We had expected a large hall with lots of tech enthusiasts of our age asking doubts and solving tech problems..but this was too different.

I tried to observe the surroundings and the atmosphere...Many empty packs of AMD processors and graphics cards were stacked at one place and the cafe` was like a club with many machines strewn along with lots of cds,books..posters ....all such stuff.Then entered Jay Jacob(the Cafe` is named Jay's Internet Club),the co-ordinator.
He looked intelligent and techy with his stout and fair face.He was a very lean guy but his eyes had the glow of an intelligent person.

That day's meeting was important as I later came to know that the Asst. commissioner of Kerala Police was visiting them to talk about the transfer of all computers in the police dept to Linux OS.

Then came the most astonishing and different person,Balakrishnan sir.He was a old person(maybe in 60s)with thick white beard like that of a saint.He entered with two packs one which he revealed to be Ubuntu cds.He seemed to be the intellectual lighthouse of the ILUG cochin chapter.

Two-three more guys entered the room and took their places.We were quickly introduced to them and the matters in the agenda were put forward to discussion.The first one was the transfer of JAVA to GPL.I didn't understand much at first,but soon I was in the stream.According to them,it was a reason to celebrate I feel I am getting into the mainstream linux discussion now.That is fine and I am happy about that.I was really enthusiastic about the ideals and the methodologies they discussed though the technical parts were not all too easy.But we two didn't open our mouths in the meeting,it would be too early.I wanted to wait and know each of the members and then start working actively by S4.

Then came the tea break,when tea was ordered for all and the second pack from Balakrishnan sir was opened.It had cream biscuits.We all ate it and soon we two were mingling with the team.

The next topic was quite sticky and tough to understand.Through his meticulous explanation Jay sir made the history of things clear with frequent clarifications from Bala sir.It was the possible inclusion of MS coding into Suse linux.This is seen as a serious threat by the community.They were holding many hypothetical situations to suggest foul play by MS.But I didn't think like them.MS may have a foul play int he deal with Suse,but then it can't be as serious as they were suggesting.Well,my inexperience in this field could be the reason for such I decided to keep quiet.

Anyway by 4.00 the commissioner called up to inform that he would be there immediately.Me and Nikil felt that we had enough for a day so he was pricking me for some time.Many other members were outside talking in their mob phones,and 2-3 were inside discussing about their suspicion and contempt of MS and its tie up with Indian Govt(donno why this ppl 'hate' MS).Their attitude seemed to hostile to any corporate..(so I even doubted their communist side of thinking)

I got a call from home and had to go.So I went inside and told Jay sir that I need to go.He inquired whether I could be available for the expo on 30th.I informed him of our tight exam schedules due to which we couldn't help him and made our way out.

The stress of all that made me sleep for long and I studied ET(alternators,1phase induction motors) at night and went to sleep.

Edited note: These r my feelings of the first meeting at ILUG, which I soon began to respect and co-operate with.Now we are in good contact with many active members.

November 11, 2006

Battle of Browsers-contd

Finally Firefox 2 has come out....
I just give you a review here.

Mozilla Firefox 2 (formerly known as Bon Echo) builds on the strength and the security demonstrated in Firefox 1.5 by adding several new features. Like Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 2 includes built-in antiphishing, but overall, Firefox 2 is much better than Microsoft Internet Explorer 7. Firefox 2 offers forward-looking features, such as Live Titles, as well as practical here-and-now tools, such as search engine suggestions, session restore, and inline spell-checking. Despite its many improvements, Firefox 2, like Internet Explorer 7, still does not pass the Acid2 Web Standards test, although, unlike Microsoft, Mozilla says it is working toward full compliance. Given its many pros and relatively few cons, Firefox 2 deserves its place.

You can download Firefox 2 for free, and unlike Internet Explorer 7, Firefox is available on a variety of operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are also a wide variety of localized language versions, including Basque and Byelorussian. Again unlike IE 7, Firefox 2 does not require that you shut down antivirus protection nor does it perform a system reboot.

Unlike IE 7, which has reorganized its toolbar, Firefox 2 changes only the look and feel of its buttons. The new shiny-glass look is much more sophisticated, as are the rounded tabs and the hairline borders around the address bar and the search engine box. Missing, however, is Places, a side panel feature we saw briefly in alpha builds; Places organizes bookmarks, RSS feeds, and history in one place, much like IE 7's Favorites Center. The good news is that Places will return in Firefox 3, which is currently under development.

Tabs have long been a part of Firefox. Now, with Firefox 2, you can open any number of tabs, rearrange them, and reopen a previously closed tab using the hot keys Ctrl-Shift-T. With another feature carried over from Firefox 1.5, you can also save active tabs as a bookmark so that you can open the entire set of tabs at a later time. Missing, however, are thumbnail previews of each tab (still available only as an extension).

At the far right of the Firefox toolbar is the search engine box. Firefox 2 now includes suggested search terms from the search engine itself; for instance type fire and Google returns Firefox among other suggestions. Firefox 2 provides several built-in search engines, such as Amazon and eBay--far more than provided by IE 7--with the option to add even more search engines.

Should you decide to remove Firefox, you'll be disappointed. Despite the speed we witnessed upon instigating uninstall, the uninstall feature left behind several folders and far too many registry entries. Thus, if you want to clean out your Firefox completely or you attempt to load Firefox 2 as a clean browser, you'll be stuck with your previous bookmarks and preferences, including extensions, intact.

New in Firefox 2 is session restore; if Windows crashes and you have several tabs open in Firefox at the time, you can now relaunch Firefox with all the tabs intact. This is quite a useful feature.

Firefox 2 also gives you the ability to correct your spelling mistakes online, just like using a word processor. This is great for typing blogs or posting to a newsgroup. Common dictionary words are checked, with misspellings identified with a squiggly red line. You can add more words and even include dictionaries available in various languages. Once you have access to inline spell-checking, you won't want to surf the Web without it.

Possibly the coolest new feature is Live Titles, formerly Microsummaries, which allows Web sites to stream updated data to your bookmarks. You can add the Live Titles functionality to the Merriam-Webster dictionary site, for example, and once you have done so, when you bookmark a page, you can choose the Live Title option to display the word of the day in your bookmark. When you drop down the bookmark menu or open the bookmark side panel, you'll see the Merriam-Webster logo followed by the word of the day. For news sites such as the BBC's, you'll see the latest headline. Think of Live Titles as RSS-like feeds for your otherwise static bookmarks.

Unfortunately extensions designed for Firefox 1.5 will probably break within Firefox 2. When you install Firefox 2, a handy wizard checks to see if there are new versions of already installed 1.5 extensions available; in my case, some but not all of my favorites had not been optimized for 2.0.In general, the Firefox add-on community is much more robust than that of Internet Explorer.

Security enhancements within Firefox 2 continue. New is a dialog box informing you of cross-domain scripting, a tactic used by criminal hackers to link nonrelated sites to sites you think may be legit. And Mozilla remains very responsive to fixing its vulnerabilities, pushing out updates within a few days of public notice. Microsoft, on the other hand, parses out its vulnerability fixes a little at a time. In the five years since its release, IE 6 has accrued a large deficit, and we see no sign that Microsoft is addressing new vulnerabilities found in IE 7 any faster.

The underlying Web rendering engine within Firefox 2 is Gecko 1.8, and it is largely unchanged from the previous release, Firefox 1.5. The next release of Firefox should include a new rendering engine.

Unfortunately, Firefox 2 does not fully support all the standards supported by the W3C organization, so it fails what is called the Acid2 test, a test designed by the Web Standards Project, although Mozilla is working hard toward full compliance.
For comparison, of the browsers tested by CNET, only Opera 9 passed the test; IE 7 fared the worst, unable to render the page in the correct colors or shapes.

Antiphishing technology within Firefox 2 is good, and the technology has steadily improved throughout the various betas

There are many enhancements within Firefox 2, making it a worthy upgrade for existing users and a fine introduction for new users. Firefox is truly innovative, yet it's also very practical for everyday use.