Showing posts from May, 2012

Getting Broadband in Shanghai (China Telecom) Part 1

Category: TechToday Shanghai is considered one of the more friendlier cities for foreigners. Getting broadband Internet, one of the more essential tasks after procuring an apartment in Shanghai, thankfully can be part of this pleasant experience for visitors. The process is surprisingly not as painful as I expected, though I still asked for assistance from a Chinese co-worker when I applied for service. There are plenty of Internet services available in wealthy Shanghai (you'll get plenty of fliers in your mailbox every weekend) but for the area of Minhang, a section of Shanghai quite a distance from Pudong, I opted for China's version of AT&T - China Telecom (which probably owns most of the network cabinets, fiber optic lines, and exchanges). Steps: 1. Get your District/Apartment's exact address - This is a no-brainer but make sure you have your address in Chinese. The address is found on your Police clearance certificate you had to apply for w…

Being Technical - the New Macho

Category: TechToday It's hard to tell nowadays who really has the technical chops considering there are literally thousands of technologies out there from the popular, like Microsoft and Adobe products, Java, and Javascript, to the fairly non-mainstream, such as LaTeX, XLIFF, Solaris, and FreeBSD.  I visit forums and the usual news sources to get up to date on the latest trends and topics.  I also visit technical forums for help when I get stumped on a piece of code or a bug in a Linux application.  I am always impressed with the incredibly learned and skilled people out there who are either well-versed in their field (e.g. network administration, Linux, programming) or are extremely resourceful for solving specific technical problems.    And then there are those who do a lot of chest-beating and name-dropping on the forums.  I always felt it was misplaced to list your MCSE, Oracle, Cisco certifications or whatever hardware you have been an expert on in …

LibreOffice 3 on a PowerPC iMac with 512MB of RAM

Categories: Techtoday There are many ways to improve an old, underpowered iMac running Mac OSX 10.4.11 and 512 MB RAM (such as installing Linux or FreeBSD) but if the machine is maintained by an IT department,  you have to make do with what you can - like installing LibreOffice. Installation Although the iMac had a severely buggy Microsoft Office for Mac 2004, I checked for a PowerPC-compatible release of LibreOffice almost immediately.  The LibreOffice site guides users to the right file, but if you're downloading the installation package from Windows or Linux don't forget to click Change System, Version or Language.  LibreOffice will display a list of languages and offer two versions for PowerPC.  LibreOffice 3.5.3 is the recommended release appropriate for the aging PowerPC iMac.  I went to work downloading the 170 MB file via torrent.  Installing LibreOffice is a typical .dmg process though Windows users accustomed to double-clicking installation f…

Quickfix: Mozilla Firefox not rendering pages properly? Switch off Hardware Acceleration

Categories: Techtoday If you've recently updated your drivers for your graphics card like I have, Mozilla Firefox might have problems rendering pages even with a fast, working Internet connection.  Obviously, if Internet Explorer 8 or 9 or Google Chrome can pull up a page, then it must have been that driver update.  Switch off Hardware Acceleration by clicking the Firefox control button and clicking Options.  Under the Advanced tab, clear the Use hardware acceleration when available box.  Restart Firefox and refresh the page.  The page will come up fine.  Curiously enough, I encountered this same issue when Internet Explorer 8 was first released.  Switching off hardware acceleration resolved the issue in the same way.  Thankfully, IE 9 had no such problems even after the Nvidia Optimus graphics driver update.  The issue is more likely related to Nvidia Optimus' dual graphics card more than anything else.

Updating the Nvidia Driver for the Lenovo Ideapad Z360

For gamers, graphics drivers and graphics cards are the most exciting part of setting up a desktop or selecting a laptop.  For users who focus on productivity, however, a working graphics card with adequate memory (even Intel's integrated chip), is often more than enough.  So, if you're not a gamer, should you update your driver graphics card even when your Adobe and Office applications work fine and your OS hardly hiccups?  The Lenovo Ideapad Z360 is equipped with an Nvidia Optimus-powered GeForce310M chip with 1GB of discrete VRAM.  The Nvidia Optimus technology allows the Z360 to switch back and forth between the Intel HD graphics card and the Nvidia chip to save on power consumption.  Unfortunately, Linux distributions like Ubuntu and openSUSE cannot take advantage of this feature of the Z360 simply because of Nvidia's lack of drivers for Linux.  On the other hand, Windows 7 (and Windows 8) takes full advantage of Optimus though the results …

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Online Upgrade Review: Don't Expect the "Avengers" Part 3

Categories: Linux


1.  Bootup and Shutdown - Ubuntu Unity 12.04 LTS continues to shutdown and startup faster than openSUSE or Mandriva, but doesn't really have a leg up over a well-maintained Windows 7 machine or an iMac with the same hardware specifictaions.  In what is perhaps an anomaly on the Lenovo Ideapad Z360 or Nvidia Optimus-powered laptops (see #4), Ubuntu has an unusually long wait after Grub that almost feel like the OS failed to load.  As a plus, however, the login screen is much more attractive with the current wallpaper magically loading in the background.     

2. Fan and Heat - Ubuntu has had issues with my Ideapad Z360's fan.  The noise is quite audible at times (almost as loud as a desktop) and depending on the duration of uptime, the system can get uncomfortably warm.  There is a marked improvement in 12.04 in terms of fan noise and heat management but it is still no…

Low expectations: 2012 Browsers, Internet Explorer, and Usage

Categories: TechtodayBeing predominantly a Linux user, I run the pre-installed Mozilla Firefox (currently at version 12) for Linux, Google Chrome or its brethren Chromium.In an enterprise environment, Internet Explorer 8 and 9 have both been unavoidable for obvious reasons, but Chrome is becoming easily accessible even on IT-maintained workstations (use portableapps or install it manually).Strangely enough, it is only on a Mac that I don't use the default browser - I find Safari uncomfortably unfriendly for some reason.I find it odd I'm still drawn to Ars Technica's regular articles on browser usage and colorful pie charts depicting incremental changes in browser adoption.Truth is, I'm no longer surprised by Google Chrome's popularity and inevitable dominance and in fact cheer on Internet Explorer's minimal gains (IE is both an "underdog" and a comeback king at the moment).For years, IE has gained the ignoble reputation…

Asian Language Settings Office 2007: Remove the Carriage Return Marks and Revert to a U.S. interface in Microsoft Word

Categories: Techwriter So you snagged work at an international company in China or Taiwan and assigned an English workstation at the office.  Suddenly, you start noticing that something isn't quite right in Office 2007 but your Language settings are in United States (English). Although the Language settings of Windows XP/7/8 determine the global interface of your desktop, an Office and Windows installation in a country like China or Taiwan will still carry specific customizations.  Everything will be in English as you run Word, Outlook, or Excel, but there are certain differences.  You will quickly notice if you are using an Office Installation set to Asian Languages when you notice the following in any of the Office applications: 1. The Default font styles for Heading and Body are Asian fonts like Batang Che, Gulim, and the font size has Han characters instead of numbers. 2. There's a different type of Paragraph mark on each carriage return that won'…

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Online Upgrade Review: Don't Expect the "Avengers" Part 2

Category: Linux

Part two of this quick overview of an online upgrade to 12.04 explores the standard features of the latest Ubuntu release, including new and improved features and some old ones as well.

Maintenance, Applications, and Utilities

1. Software center - Ubuntu Software Center has largely replaced dependable but somewhat aged Synaptic Package Manager since the inception of the Unity DesktopAdobe Flash, with its somewhat ambiguous role in the IT ecosystem today, is an excellent test for Software Center's prowess.  Prior to the upgrade, I had been running the Flash plugin for Mozilla (Chrome, of course, supports Flash out of the box).  Metatube prompted for a Flash upgrade, giving me a chance to install Adobe's more recent iteration of the plugin.  Thankfully, installation of Flash on the 12.04 proved to be a non-issue. 

2. Wokspaces and Desktop Switcher - A previous glitch that marred Ubuntu…

Quickfix: Switch USB ports to get a clicking Toshiba Mobile Drive working

Categories: Techtoday

As convenient as external mobile hard drives are, they are  still subject to plenty of abuse in a laptop bag and at the office.  In general, even cheap mobile hard drives have become sturdier and resilient over the years with Western Digital and Seagate incorporating new approaches to securing mechanical hard drives.  As expected, however, drive failures are still common and the Internet is rife with methods of reviving dead external hard drives.  

Some of the techniques actually work.  I've had exceptional luck saving data from a non-mobile, SATA hard drive by freezing it in the refrigerator.  Some methods, however, can damage a perfectly good hard drive.  

One of the more frightening symptoms that is often misinterpreted is the clicking hard drive.  My 4 year old 500 GB Toshiba Mobile HDD started clicking a year ago - a symptom associated with the spinning platter inside a non-flas…

Should you Update your Skype Install?

Categories: Techtoday Microsoft's purchase of Skype hit the headlines quite some time ago and with the acquisition triggered minimal changes to the somewhat popular utility.  The Microsoft site now sports its own Skype Home Page but users haven't seen much changes in the application itself.  With news that Microsoft switched to headless Linux servers to support the Skype network, will any improvements or innovations finally arrive? It's heartening to know that Microsoft is implementing Linux boxes rather than peer-to-peer client machines.  The engineers and sysads must be hard at work preparing Skype for Windows 8 and Windows 8 tablets (and hopefully for newer versions of Android as well).  In the meantime, it's more likely a good idea to update currently installed Skype versions.  These updates are pretty few and far between though a recent online update did arrive (after more than 6 months of running the same Skype release) for my Windows 7 ma…

Convert Flac to MP3 in Linux - Sound Converter and LAME

Categories: Linux

Codecs and formats aren't an issue anymore in Linux, especially in user-friendly distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint.  Although Flac is a superior format to MP3, it isn't supported by devices (or players) as widely as MP3.  Converting .flac files to .ogg or .mp3 is a simple affair with the correct applications installed. 

Depending on your Linux distribution setup, users will have to install Lame MP3 encoding library and an audio converter using your package manager of choice.  The screenshots below depict Ubuntu Software Center in Ubuntu Unity
1. Using Ubuntu Software Center, search for the LAME MP3 Encoding Library.  The package itself allows you to convert a variety of sound formats to MP3 via command line.  If you're comfortable with following simple commands in a Terminal, then you're all set.

2. For users who prefer a graphical interface, Sound Converter i…

Free up Bandwidth and get some exercise! Watch "The Avengers" (2012) in Theatres Now!

Category: Techtoday "Hi everyone!  This is the Amazing Spider-Man (circa 1970s) inviting you guys to get off your computer screens and run (not walk) over to your local theatre to watch Marvel Comics' The Avengers.  And while you're at it, support open source software and watch The Amazing Spider-Man this July, 2012.  Yup, that's three plugs in one.  See you in 3D!" ***Disclaimer: The author is an unabashed fan of Marvel and Spider-Man in the late 1980s to early 1990s.*** 

Loving Bing Translate and Google Translate

Category: Techwriter There are dozens of apps for Android and iOS that provide foreign language translations available inGoogle Play and iTunes.  Also, there are plenty of free and commercial web sites/services online for translating or defining foreign words, statements, and text.  However, even without a mobile device or any knowledge of any particular service, just visiting Bing and Google can go a long way when searching for the English translations of a particular language.   Both Google Translate and Bing Translator Beta (formerly called Microsoft Translator) offer a lot of languages for online translation.  Though I doubt anyone would require all of them, the list of both services is comprehensive.  Google Translate includes Azerbaijani, Yiddish, Esperanto, and Maltese - extremely difficult and rare languages (search your local Barnes & Noble and tell me if you can find dictionaries or books on them).  Plus, Google Translate has both Tamil and Hin…

Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Online Upgrade Review: Don't Expect the "Avengers" Part 1

Category: Linux

Historically, I haven't had much luck with online distribution upgrades.  I've attempted upgrades for openSUSE, Mandriva, Ubuntu and a handful of other distributions which resulted in leftover packages, nonfunctional software, and on occasion, a nonfunctional operating system. 

Ubuntu Oneiric Ocelot was a stable release though I regret selecting the Unity release over Lubuntu.  Having had an excellent experience with the last Long-term Support release of Ubuntu, I have high hopes for 12.04 and decided to jump in and once again attempt an online upgrade and not a clean install as I normally would.  

Quick Summary

The outcome of the online upgrade was smooth and the resulting system was stable and fast.  12.04, however, doesn't provide Ubuntu fans what "Avengers" did to Marvel and superhero fans in general.  For old fans of Avengers and the team's current roster, the film …