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Ubuntu 10.04: On Intel Driver and Server Frame Buffer

Desktop Edition

I have to say my experience with the new Ubuntu 10.04, Lucid Lynx is not smooth sailing. My number one issue is that desktop effects won’t run. Annoying, since 9.10 runs it just fine. Apparently the Intel video driver is blacklisted due to “instabilities”. Running without desktop effects is simply unacceptable.

Fortunately there is a “solution” (read: workaround). I need to install the latest version of xserver-xorg-video-intel. Grab the package from this PPA: ppa:glasen/intel-driver. Be aware that this driver is not a stable version. I had some minor issues with it. Occasionally the screen would flickr. Less often the X-Server would crash, kicking me back to the GDM login. Use it with your own risk.

Desktop Effects

Oh by the way the expose scale plugin is now enabled by default. To activate them use these shortcuts:

  • Super+W to scale all windows on the current desktop
  • Super+A to scale all windows on all virtual desktops

Sweet! But I wish they could behave like Gnome Shell. That one is awesome, unfortunately I’m not yet ready to plunge into it right now.

Server Edition

I’m very disappointed to see that the server edition console is unbearably slow under VirtualBox. Again, this is not the case with 9.10 server. To work around this issue, you need to disable the frame buffer module:

edit /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-framebuffer.conf and add the following line:

blacklist vga16fb

Reboot and the console should be fine.


Pho Hoa

Pho and Vietnamese Drip Coffee at Pho Hoa

I had this delicious Pho (S$9.95) last saturday at Pho Hoa, Holland Village. This is also the first time I tried a Vietnamese drip coffee (S$5).

Thanks to Petric for introducing me to this great place.

Chillies at Pho Hoa

Asus UL30VT

I stepped out of the Singapore IT Show 2010 with a new Asus UL30VT laptop. I had to settle with the silver model since they don’t have the back one. Its still a very beautiful machine.

Its a thin and light laptop, measuring less than 1″. I don’t know the weight but this is clearly under 2 kilos, around 1.5 kilo. Which is impressive, considering it hosts 2 GB of RAM and a 500 GB of disk inside a 13″ frame. It doesn’t have a built in DVD drive but I got an slim external DVD Writer as bonus. On the graphics side, it as two switchable graphic card: an Nvidia GeForce for gaming and an integrated Intel when you need to conserve power.

It came with Windows 7 pre-installed. This is the first time I touched a Windows 7 installation (really!) and I’m pretty impressed. It feels much more reliable than Vista. Of course the first thing I did was load up IE and download Google Chrome as well as Pidgin to make it more “at home”.

Of course I can’t stay with Windows 7 forever. Time to load up Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) in here… In fact I’m on Live CD now, installing Karmic ;)

Mango Tango at En Dian Xin

En Dian Xin

Mango Tango

Mango Tango at En Dian Xin Oriental Desserts in 313@Somerset. See more photos at my Flickr page.

Hachi Hachi Sushi

Salmon Sushi

Salmon Sushi at Hachi Hachi Bistro, mall Taman Anggrek. Each sushi costs 9k IDR, but the size of it justifies the price.


Unakyu Sushi, also at Hachi Hachi. See more photos at my Flickr page.

Concatenating PDFs from CLI

The widely known and easiest way to combine PDF documents from the command line is to use pdftk:

$ pdftk file1.pdf [file2.pdf ...] cat output dest.pdf

pdftk can do a lot more than just pdf concatenation. It can also split pages, rotate pages, apply watermarks and even repair broken PDFs. The downside is it removes outlines or bookmarks from the output document. So if you need the bookmarks intact you can’t use pdftk.

If you only need simple concatenation with bookmarks, use iText. iText is a powerful Java library for PDF generation and manipulation. Thankfully we don’t need to write our own Java code since hidden underneath is a simple PDF concatenation tool:

$ java f1.pdf [f2.pdf ...] \

Besides ConcatPdf, iText also has other tools such as SplitPdf and HandoutPdf.

iText in Ubuntu How To

To install iText in Ubuntu/Debian, from Synaptic install the package “libitext-java”. If you prefer the command line:

$ sudo apt-get install libitext-java

Before using iText like the above example you need to set up the CLASSPATH:

$ export CLASSPATH=$CLASSPATH:/usr/share/java/itext.jar

Or you can also set the CLASSPATH directly:

$ java -cp /usr/share/java/itext.jar \ f1.pdf [f2.pdf ...] dest.pdf

Google’s “new approach” on China

Read at The Official Google Blog. This is significant.

Espresso Con Panna

Espresso Con Panna

Espresso con Panna at Highlander Coffee.

ODF Templating using Appy pod

The last time I tried to produce ODF text document from Python, I hack Django templating to load an ODT file as a template. Long story short: Don’t try this at home. The fact that the application is still running in-production is very much a miracle.

Last week I suddenly stumble upon Appy pod. Oh if only I had found you sooner! Pod uses OpenOffice’s track changes feature to insert template placeholders and notes for conditionals and loops. This makes templates to be very simple to create. Aside from ODF, pod can also call OpenOffice in headless mode to generate the result PDF format.

Of course there are some limitations. You can’t put a word by word conditional, you need to use a paragraph. You can’t loop more than one row in a table. Also if there are errors, the error messages will be displayed as notes in the output document. While this simplifies debugging, it won’t look professional when it is seen by the user.

I you ever need to generate ODF documents from Python, do give pod a try!


Irish Creme Latte

Irish Creme Latte at Highlander Coffee. Isn’t it lovely to get latte art on your coffee.

Hi readers, long time no see. As you may deduce from my previous posts, I am now living and working in Singapore. I hope to resume my posting on this blog now that the Internet here is much reliable than back home.