Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx – Reinstalling ALSA

I shared with everyone the problem I am having with ALSA in my previous blog post. Stéphane Gaudreault wrote a good instruction on how to re-install ALSA.

The only difference that I during the re-installation process is that I stopped ALSA using this command:

sudo /lib/udev/alsa-utils stop

I have been playing videos with VLC, XINE, and my mp3 with Rhytmbox and everything seem to be very stable. Thank you Stéphane for sharing with us how to reinstall ALSA.

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Ubuntu Lucid Lynx 10.04 – Desktop Eye Candy

Bisigi project gives the coolest themes for Linux. Bisigi provides some of the best themes that I have installed in my Ubuntu box so far. These are some of my favourite Bisigi themes.

Try bisigi themes for Gnome

Showtime Theme


Bamboo Zen

Ubuntu Sunrise


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Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx – Gasp What’s Wrong With ALSA ?

I have been having 100% CPU usage problem that hogs my Ubuntu box ever since I was using Karmic. I scan my Ubuntu box for bad hard disk sector using:

sudo badblocks /dev/hda

Luckily and I am still thankful for this that I do not have bad sectors in my Ubuntu Box. I found the following entry in my message log. Go to your System > Administration > Log File Viewer and check the messages.

I found this message in my message log:

May  3 05:17:05 sleeper-laptop pulseaudio[1763]: alsa-util.c: snd_pcm_delay() returned a value that is exceptionally large: -12123948 bytes (-68729 ms).
May  3 05:17:05 sleeper-laptop pulseaudio[1763]: alsa-util.c: Most likely this is a bug in the ALSA driver 'snd_hda_intel'. Please report this issue to the ALSA developers.

I have been tracking down this problem on the net and it seems that the problem is affecting people who are using snd_hda_intel driver. This problem usually happen after we play an audio for 20 to 30 minutes. This problem has been logged in Launchpad and ALSA’s bug tracking system.

Jared Wiltshire from launchpad suggested that we can build the latest ALSA driver from ALSA Project with:

./configure --with-cards=hda-intel
sudo make install-modules

I’ll keep everyone posted on the result once tried it on my Lucid Box.

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Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx – Thunderbird 3 the Ultimate Email Client

Thunderbird 3 comes with new functions that enhance user experience. Some of the new functions that I really like is the new Tabbed Search, Archiving function, and Virtual Folders. We can also install Thunderbird 3 on other operating system, just visit their website for the latest release.

Searching Emails

Thunderbird 3 comes with a new tabbed search function. The tabbed search give laser precision searching ability that I have never seen in other mail clients before. The search functionality allow you to filter the search result based on the timeline, from, to and attachment. The tabbed search allow user to open multiple search keyword and jump from one search tab to another.

Virtual Folders

Thunderbird 3 allows us to create a folder from our search conditions. Click on the magnifying glass and Thunderbird will let you save your search as a ‘Virtual Folder’.

Choosing the ‘Virtual Folder’ option will open a pop up window allowing user to edit the Virtual Folder’s name and conditions.

Configure the folder name and the condition to suit your need and then click the ‘Ok’ button to create the Virtual Folder.

Archiving Messages

I have been keeping all my emails since 2007 in my Ubuntu Box. It is time to archive these emails. This is what I do to archive my emails:

1. First I search for all email messages that I received in 2007. I right click my inbox icon and select ‘Search’.

2. I create a search condition to find every emails that I received in 2007.

3. I saved the Search Result as a virtual folder by clicking the ‘Save as Search Folder’.

4. We need to select all the emails under the virtual folder. We can archive these messages by selecting ‘Message’ > ‘Archive’. Alternatively you can also click on the ‘Archive’ button on the bottom frame message window.

5. Thunderbird will automatically create a 2007 Archive Folder to store our 2007 email messages.

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Upgraded to Lucid Lynx

I just upgraded my Jaunty Jackalope to Lucid Lynx last night.  The Ubuntu team has definitely done an amazing job delivering Lucid. The upgrade process is very easy,smooth and flawless. Ubuntu Lucid also comes with a lot of interesting feature that need serious exploration.

Picture taken from Ubuntu Homepage

Thunderbird 3

Lucid Lynx comes with Thunderbird 3. Thunderbird 3 has a lot of neat features such tab search and message archiving. A smart folder that gives a unified view of multiple email accounts. We can also save our queries as a ‘virtual’ folder so that we can reuse these queries as often as possible.

Thunderbird will definitely help me archive my old emails. The next thing that I want to figure out is whether I can connect Thunderbird 3 to Ubuntu to synch my contacts.

Ubuntu One Music Store

Lucid Lynx comes with Ubuntu One Music Store. We can access the music store from our Applications > Sound & Video > Rhythmbox Music Player. The music store will send the music files into our Ubuntu One account. The music files will be downloaded to our Linux box when it synchronizes with Ubuntu One.


Lucid has gone ‘social’ by having its own Social Media client Gwibber. Gwibber organizes our twitter and facebook status updates into a single client. Gwibber is able to show multiple message column just like tweet deck.At the moment I am connected Twitter and Facebook to Gwibber. I’ll connect my identi.ca to Gwibber soon.

There is definitely a lot features that I want to explore. In the meanwhile if you happen to have Twitter, please join us in #Ubuntu to spread the word.

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How I Save Bandwidth In Ubuntu

My current broadband provider set a limit of 25 GB of data per month. Luckily they provide a free download period from 2AM – 8 AM.  The trick is how to schedule my heavy download between the free download period.

Downloader for X

Downloader for X is a great download manager for Linux. Downloader for X is inspired by other download manager like get right. Downloader for X comes under a nick name, ‘d4x‘. Install this application by typing the following command in your console:

<strong>sudo apt-get install d4x</strong>

You may schedule the download process by clicking on the ‘Schedule’ icon.  

Specify the download URL in the ‘Main Tab’.

Choose the date and time when the download should start from the ‘Time’ tab.

Shutting Down My PC at 8 AM

I use Gnome-Scheduler to shutdown my system at 8 AM. I use my crontab to create a system wide task to shutdown my PC at 8 AM. Open your console and type the following command to edit your system wide crontab entry.

sudo gedit /etc/crontab

Add the following cron job to shut down your PC:

00 8    * * *   root   /sbin/shutdown -h now

Refer to the Unix Cron tab guideline for a detail overview on how a crontab command is structured.

Scheduling my Torrent

I use deluge bittorrent to schedule my torrent downloads. Deluge is a full-featured BitTorrent client for Linux, OS X, Unix and Windows. The easiest way to install deluge torrent is to use your Ubuntu Software Center. Alternatively uou can find download the appropriate version of Deluge bittorrent from this the download page.

Deluge torrent relies on some command line instruction to start and stop the download. I use Gnome Scheduler to schedule task to stop and start the download.

Install Gnome-Scheduler by typing the following command in your console:

sudo apt-get install gnome-schedule

You can access Gnome Scheduler from ‘Application’ > ‘System Tools’ > ‘Scheduled Task’.

Click on the ‘New’ button and create a ‘Task that launches recurrently’.

Use the following command to start a torrent download:

deluge -u console -a "config --set max_active_limit 10"

Click on the ‘Advanced’ radio button to specify the download hour. I specify ‘2-8’ for my download time.

Create another recurring task to stop the download. Use the following command to stop a torrent download:

deluge -u console -a "config --set max_active_limit 0"

Click on the ‘Advanced’ radio button to specify the hours where you want to stop the torrent download.

Capturing YouTube Clips

I often goes to YouTube to watch video clips. I like to archive those clips that I watch frequently into my laptop. This saves frequent streaming to YouTube that eats my bandwidth.

I use firefox Download Helper 4.7.3 to download YouTube Video Clips. Once you installed this add on you will see an icon beside the firefox address bar. Clicking this icon allows you to select which clip you wish to download.

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Bringing Back “Information” in Information Technology

LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 08: 3M Touch Systems comm...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Many CIOs said IT’s greatest value is in managing the information their organizations depend on to do business, regardless of the technology they use (Ragowsky, Licker, Gefen, 2008).

Another important aspect in it implementation is how to apply technology within the social context of the people or organisation who use the technology (Appelbaum,1997). Technology implementers need to find a minimum set of functionality that is required to support the social context of the organisation.

The Great Wall of IT

We cannot deny that IT is an important driver for organization to succeed in the 21st knowledge economy. The technical and logical mindset of IT people tends to isolate the IT division from the rest of the organization. There is an invisible great wall surrounding the IT division. There is a need for organisation leaders to understand what IT is all about. Leaders need to immerse themselves with IT. Some even say that a manager in an organisation need to have some stint managing in IT division to be able to lead in an organisation.

The challenge lies in front of IT is how we can bring back “information” to IT. IT need to be able to deliver the right kind of information according to social context of the business. Let’s take a look at a common IT use transferring knowledge and information. IT provides various ways to transfer information between people and organisations. Emails, chatrooms, web pages, electronic documents, are only a small subset of available technology to transfer information. Implementing these technologies without careful consideration of the social context of the organisation will be meaningless. These technologies will only be beneficial if it supports the knowledge need of the people who use them.

Effective Knowledge Creation with Technology

The floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Image via Wikipedia

IT implementers need to be able to identify the type of knowledge or information that the user wants to have. People need requires knowledge for different level of need (Probst,1998).

Some group people require knowledge to sustain their organization strategic goal in the market place. A good example of such knowledge is understanding user behaviour to create personalized recommendation. Lunch.com mine Facebook user social behavioural pattern to provide product recommendation for their users. IT plays a big role for this type of knowledge demand by providing real time data retrieval on the web using scalable second-generation distributed database.

Other people require knowledge so that they can do the job that their organisation assign to them. Cutting edge companies that make advance innovative products often require their worker to employ new techniques to produce new technology. IT enables their workers to find data by providing an environment where technical like minded people can gather and exchange ideas. Online forums, mailing list, wikis, blog are some platforms that workers can use to collaborate with like minded people to get superior knowledge to deliver better solution in their workplace.

This example illustrates the need of carefully analyzing the need of the information or knowledge goal of an organisation. Different types of goals require different set of enabling technology. An important challenge is to identify the right set of technology to support the different knowledge goal of the organisation.

Breaking the Great Wall of IT

A section of the Great Wall of China between S...
Image via Wikipedia

We need to tear down the wall that surrounds IT. Organisations need to make real effort to facilitate effective communication inside their workplace to promote awareness and understanding on what the vision and mission of their IT division.

Organisations also need to re align their IT implementation to fit into their organisations social context. The challenge is how to formulate an IT strategy that supports the business objective. It is time that IT bring back the actual information that organisations need.

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Google’s Project X

Facebook has been very aggressive in asserting their dominance in the Internet. Facebook has been attacking Google at all front. Facebook released an OpenGraph API that  competes with Google’s Social Graph. Facebook is sending window decal to local business signalling a strong competition with Google Places. Facebook advertisement is cheaper than Google Ad. Some people has been successful in generating money by targeting specific demography in Facebook Social Network. There is less competition in Facebook advertisement compare to Google and this has become one of the driving forces in Facebook ad.

The Real Time Search Battle

Some people have argued that Google is not very successful in establishing a clear brand in the market. Facebook has started to use this fact to catch up with the search engine Goliath by filling the gap in the real time search. Facebook is armed with ex-Googler employees that have the knowhow to build a good real time search engine. Google is still the leading search engine when it comes to searching relevant information.

Yes Facebook may be useful to look for what our friends like for lunch, or what they have been doing during the weekend. Lunch.com built a recommendation system using Facebook’s social data repository. All that is good BUT we can’t deny that Google is still the authorative figure in the Internet when it comes to searching real information. I use Google Scholar when I work on my research papers. I use Google Web and Blog search to find important links for my blog. I use Google Map when I needed direction to go for my overseas trip. Sorry Facebook you’re no Google !

The Social Media Battle

Google social media products have not been catching up with other social media products. Google Buzz received a bad press when it was launched. Google Wave that was the hype in 2009 does not seem to go anywhere.

There is a lot of excitement around Google’s social product. People are actually very excited in using Google Wave. Google Wave is the future of online collaboration tool. Orkut is gaining popularity in certain country like Brazil. Orkut has become biggest social networking site in India. People use Google Reader as one of their primary source of information for work purposes. Some A-list bloggers such as Rob Diana shares feeds on an average of 273 feeds per week!

Google Profile is gaining a lot of attention. Louis Gray posted his ideas on how to redesign Google Profile. I personally feel that Google Profile real power lies in close integration with other Google Products such as Google Friend Connect or Google Maps. The bottom line is although Google is not at the forefront in Social Media, they have the undeniable potential to be one!

Project X

Some people argued that Google is loosing the social web war to Facebook. Facebook has gained 250 million registered users. This figure represents a huge untapped resource for content personalization.  Facebook has realized they have the power to change the face of the Internet. Whether they will succeed is a good question for another topic.

Google definitely has an array of amazing products. People are very excited about them. Just take a look at their product ideas page. People are pouring their ideas for Google Product. I do not see this in Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or any other social media product out there. There are a lot of challenges that Google is facing ahead. They need to prevent the brain drain in their organisation. Google needs to be able to integrate their social product into their mainstream products.

Is Google initiating a secret project to reposition the organisation as the Internet Goliath? What is their Project X? Google hinted that they are doing a major work in Google Buzz. Rick Klau is heading Google Profile. Google just recently acquired Lab Pixie and the stealth startup Agnilux. I am pretty sure that whatever Google is doing, they will be creating another amazing product for us.


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Social Graph Series 4: Moving Beyond Social Privacy to Semantic Web

My previous social graph series explains how web producers create amazing application by observing our social gesture. The more information that a web producer have on a user allow the web producer to give better recommendation. Web producer need to be able to capture user preferences on a bigger scale. Facebook has answered this challenge by providing the “FB Like” button. FB like button provides seamless integration into any web page with minimal obtrusion.

What is a FB “Like” button ?

Facebook like button allow a user to indicate whether he or she like something on the web. Implementing a like button involves putting an HTML snippet to our website. Some website, such as wordpress, may give more complexity than others. Facebook will post the item that you like in your facebook profile page. Your peer will also be able to know what you like without visiting facebook. Dan Tynan wrote an article on PC world that gives an example how Pandora pulled his “like” information and share his friends like information to suggest music to him.

Web producer can customize how their site shows up when users share your page with the Like button, by adding OpenGraph Meta data. Example (taken from FB Developer Page):

og:title – The title of your page; if not specified, the title element will be used.

og:site_name– The name of your web site, e.g., “CNN” or “IMDb”.

og:image – The URL of the best picture for this page. The image must be at least 50px by 50px and have a maximum aspect ratio of 3:1.

For example if you are creating a page about the movie ‘The Rock’ you would include this meta data:
<meta property=”og:title” content=”The Rock”/>
<meta property=”og:site_name” content=”IMDb”/>
<meta property=”og:image” content=”http://ia.media-imdb.com/rock.jpg”/&gt;

Why people may prefer FB “Like” button

There are other similar like button such as the re-tweet or buzz button. These buttons sends information to twitter or buzz on the item that we re-tweet or buzz. These like buttons does not work seamlessly like the FB like button. This other like button will redirect user to each of the button service provider when user click on them. They rely on OAuth to share the website data with Twitter or Buzz.  Facebook like button is less obtrusive compare to these other like button. Other “like” buttons have not used other Social Graph Meta tag such as OpenGraph, or Google Social Graph to add meaningful semantic to our social gesture.

Our Privacy and the “Like” button

Dan Tynan pointed out in his article on PC world that he is quite concern with the fact that most of his Facebook friends are people that he barely knows. What we need to be aware of is that Facebook shares your information to your friends list and third party websites.  It is very important that we start looking through our friends list and audit those people who we do not wish to share our information with. We can “like” things on the net without having to login to facebook. We will see our profile picture on websites content that we “liked” when we clicked the Facebook like button.

Facebook three partners Docs.com, Yelp, and Pandora will receive FB “Instant Personalization”. Facebook “Instant Personalization” partners receives general information such as: your profile, your friends’ names, profile pictures, gender, connections, and any other content shared using the “everyone” privacy setting. Each partner is required to display a prominent blue scroll-down bar allowing users to instantly opt-out. If users don’t choose to opt out, the partner continues to be able to access general information. Facebook’s terms of service describes their agreement with these partners in more detail.  We can disable the “Instant Personalization” in our Privacy Setting page in Facebook.

It is worthwhile to check our “Like and Interest” setting in our Facebook privacy page just to make sure that our profile picture does not suddenly pop in websites that we do not know. Facebook privacy settings have some great features to allow us to block certain content to certain people or group of people.

FB Maze Like Privacy Page

I believe that Facebook has a certain degree of good intention to safeguard the privacy of our data. The problem is that FB privacy setting page is not very easy to use. We need to manually specify setting for each of FB functionality. FB does not provide a single button to restrict the privacy settings.

Facebook privacy setting page can be a complex maze for a lot of people. In my previous  post pointed out that most Facebook users still unable to set their Facebook privacy settings as to what they imagine it to be. Some people have decided to leave Facebook because they are not confident that they have not missed out any privacy setting in Facebook’s maze like privacy setting page.

On top of Facebook privacy page complexity, Facebook like to change their privacy setting drastically without giving much room for people to opt-out. Last year Facebook made our status updates privacy setting to ‘everyone’ , allowing total strangers to read our status updates. Facebook’s recent move does not really inspire much confidence from their user. I will still keep my Facebook profile alive because it is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. I can’t deny that I am getting very nervous on how Facebook share my data. It has not been very easy to keep up with Facebook privacy changes.

Moving to a More Semantic Web.

There are a number of challenges around creating meaning in our social interaction on the web, beside privacy and openness. One problem is that there is not much data on the semantics. The only semantic data repository that I can find online is freebase. Even this is not enough to provide meaningful semantics on the social relationship online. The next issue is about meta data abuse. Open Graph allows web producers to specify any values within the OpenGraphMeta tag. People lie about who they are on line. People will also lie about what their web site is all about to drive search engine to visit their sites. OpenGraph is not immune to meta data abuse. Open Graph implementers need to battle the old black hat SEO tricks.

Putting the privacy and openness issues aside, I personally feel excited that major players in the industry such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have invested a lot of effort in making the web more semantically meaningful. I hope that my articles on Social Graph has contributed some values towards the discussion around the social web.

My Articles On Social Graph:


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Social Graph Series 3: It’s About Time We Get Back Our Social Information

My previous social graph series explains how social graph connects social objects on the web. The social gesture that user made towards social objects creates meaningful relationship between the social objects on the web. Social gesture comes in many form, following people in twitter, friending some one in facebook, Buzzing an article, sharing feeds in Google reader, Digging stories on the web, making purchases on the web are what I consider as social gesture.Any action that relate our self to another object (tagible product, other people account, stories) is considered as a ‘gesture’.  Application developers will be able to personalised content or create recommendation based on our social gestures.

Content Recommendation

The following great companies has created amazing algorithm and products that are able to recommend the best product or content that fits our social behaviour.

Amazon claims that they are the biggest book store on the planet, selling a wide range of product such as books, dvd, clothing, MP3, etc. Amazon has a recommendation system that suggest books that a customer might like based on other customer reviews and similiar purchases. Amazon recommendation  are based on individual behavior, plus either the item itself or behavior of other people on Amazon.

StumbleUpon integrates peer-to-peer and social networking principles with one-click blogging to create an emergent content  referral system. Stumble upon recommends websites or links that a user might like based on their ‘likes’ or ‘dislikes’.

Google personalises that search result to match your web history. Google will customize your search results based on location and/or recent search activity. Additionally, when you’re signed in to your Google Account, you may see even more relevant, useful results based on your web history.
Digg is a famous news curation website that allow user to submit articles on the news. Digg surfaces the most “digged” news to the Digg’s front page. Content curation may be the latest next big thing in 2010. Digg curating system has sparked interest from major players such as Microsoft and Google. Google is intrested in Google because Digg curating system is a natural extension to its existing search algorithm.

Google Reader recently launched Google Reader Play. Google Reader play presents user with a slides of interesting RSS feeds that matches the user preferences.

Information Ownership

Every web producer out there funnels our social gesture into their data repository. They do this out of the good intention to provide a better user experience on the web. Some  web producers tend to be more open compare to others. Digg, Twitter, Foursquare share their social gesture data with the public. They let the community to add extra value from their social data by building great applications around it.

Twitter CEO Evan Williams argued that the social web is about being able to exchange information openly. Knowledge should not be owned by a certain private entity. Knowledge should be freely distributed for everyone to reap benefit out of it. Some choose to kept it behind a closed ecosystem that no one can access. They have a good reason for doing this.  Knowledge is power. Keeping knowledge to themselves allow them to have a strategic knowledge base to produce targeted ads or recommendation that potentially brings a lot of value into the corporate. One thing that they might missed out is that there is even a bigger potential to share knowledge with the public.

Sharing information and knowledge has created some of the best invention in the IT history.Take Linux for example. Opening Linux source code was probably the best move in the history of computing. Thousands of developers has joined together to create various distro of Linux and a plethora of amazing open source application that runs on Linux. Linux has been dominating the server market. Their market share in the server market has been rising consistently against other popular operating system. Google who has the most servers on the planet relies on Linux to run their operation.

Openness is the future. No platform should be closed. Opening platform allow us to create better product and services. Anil Dash argued that platform should not be proprietary :

Think of the web, of the Internet itself, as water. Proprietary platforms based on the web are ice cubes. They can, for a time, suspend themselves above the web at large. But over time, they only ever melt into the water. And maybe they make it better when they do.

Information or knowledge sharing should not be mistaken with unauthorized distribution of personal information. Web producer has the responsibility to safe guard our social behaviour information with the highest professional conduct. No data should be shared without the user consent. We own our activity and web producer should let us consciously share these information to people or entities that we choose to share them with. Nobody like having their data shared without their consent. Web producer need to learn the repercussion when their customers are not happy with how they share the customer personal information. Information ownership need to be monitored and regulated if need be to prevent privacy breach. I shall delve into potential privacy and security issue around social graph on the next series.

My Articles On Social Graph:


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