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February 13, 2012

Case of the missing translucent panels

Filed under: Knowledgebase,Linux/Unix Related — Suramya @ 11:39 PM

A couple of days ago I decided to try hooking up my LCD TV to my computer to see if I could use it as an extra monitor (that didn’t work that well because the TV was too big to be comfortable but that is a different story). So while I was connecting the TV over HDMI I also installed the proprietary drivers for my RADEON HD 4250 card (and promptly forgot about doing this).

Didn’t like working with the TV (too big, too close) so put it back and then noticed that my panel was no longer translucent and none of the desktop effects were working. Ignored it for a couple of days and then decided to fix the issue.

Tried disabling and enabling the Desktop effects from the Settings -> Desktop Effects but I kept getting and error stating that the effects could not be activated and that I should check my Xorg.conf for errors. Tried searching for the Xorg.conf file but that file doesn’t exist on my system so was stumped.

Ignored the issue for another day or so but then got irritated enough today to try and fix it again. Searched online for a fix and found some tips, some bug reports but nothing that worked. Then I found a page where this person was asking if the Opensource driver is better than the propitiatory one. This tickled my brain cells and I had a hazy memory of installing the other version, so decided to take a chance and uninstall the propitiatory version and re-install the Opensource version.

Used the following commands to do this:

  apt-get remove --purge fglrx*
  apt-get remove --purge xserver-xorg-video-ati xserver-xorg-video-radeon 
  apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-ati
  apt-get install --reinstall libgl1-mesa-glx libgl1-mesa-dri xserver-xorg-core
  dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

After doing this I restarted my system (had to do it anyways) and got my desktop effects back. Yay me!

Thanks to wiki.Unbuntu.org for the steps to purge the propitiatory driver.

Hope someone else also finds this useful sometime.

-Suramya

February 12, 2012

Google Wallet PIN cracked on Android devices

Filed under: Computer Related,Computer Security,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:53 PM

The past few days there has been a lot of press around the fact that the Google Wallet Pin was cracked on rooted android phones. Lots of people including computer programmers and technologists (who should frankly know better) have reacted to this by posting messages/comments equivalent to: “rooting is bad”, “rooting causes security holes” etc etc etc… Guess they have forgotten the simple rule of computer security: “physical access is total access”, basically it means that if I have physical access to a device I can get full access to it eventually.

This fact was demonstrated it quite nicely by the news that you don’t really need to root your phone to get your pin hacked, all you need to do is reset the application data.

The problem in both cases is caused by the fact that the Google Wallet’s pin is stored locally on the phone itself instead of online so if you can get access to it you can bruteforce it or if you clear the app data it removes the pin and lets you choose another.

One way of fixing the second issue would be to force the phone to link to the internet after the local cache is cleared to sync the pin with the online secure server instead of just letting a user choose a new one. The fix for the first case is a lot harder because you can’t have a wallet that requires the phone to be connected to the web everytime you use it, and if you store it locally then you are just asking for trouble.

Another way would be for the receiving side to validate the pin sort of line how we do it for credit cards but that doesn’t seem too feasible either. Or we could salt the pin with the user’s account info/do a dual encryption, first one requires the pin to unlock the second one requires the account password.

Now if I can come up with such solutions then I am sure the people at Google and the various banks working on this issue will come up with other more secure options. Its not the end of the world. yet. This is a new technology and like all new tech it has its teething issues and I am looking forward to the final fixed product.

- Suramya

February 11, 2012

Dr Who and Star Trek now to have an official Crossover

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:38 PM

Dr Who and Star Trek are my two favorite shows and even though there have been numerous fan fiction titles where the two cross over, there was no official cross over till now…. :) In May IDW is going to publish a Doctor Who/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover series. I am definitely going to go buy the books when they come out. I have read the Star Trek cross overs with X-Men and a couple of others but I believe this one is going to be the best.

Make it… geronimo!

Bleeding Cool has squirrelled out news of an upcoming crossover that might send certain minds reeling. That in May, IDW are to publish a Doctor Who/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover series. Featuring The Doctor, Rory, Amy, Captain Picard, Worf, Data, Geordi LaForge, Deanna Troi, Will Riker and the rest. And that this art, featuring the Doctor, Rory and Amy on the bridge of the Enterprise is a cover that will be used in the series.

Doctor Who has never engaged in any such officially sanctioned crossover outside of the Doctor Who universe before. The closest was Dimensions In Time, a much derided charity telethon show which featured characters from the BBC soap opera Eastenders. Then there was Death’s Head who kinda popped in and out. Star Trek has also seen comic book crossovers with X-Men and the Legion Of Superheroes. But this is the first time that two such major competing TV sci-fi franchises have been allowed to merge in any way before.

Source: Bleedingcool.com

Maybe there is hope for an official Star Trek & Star Wars crossover?

- Suramya

February 10, 2012

Kodak discontinues its Camera business

Filed under: My Thoughts,News/Articles — Suramya @ 6:33 PM

Its been expected for a while now but its finally official; Kodak is shutting down its camera business by June to focus on its current brand licensing program, and seek licensees in these categories. Its sad that the company that was once a synonym for camera’s and photos is going to shut down. :( I remember my first camera, it was a point and shoot Kodak camera that I spent loads of time and effort on to take some really cool and interesting photos with. I think I still have it at home sitting in one of the boxes of old stuff along with my Nintendo and other artifacts of my childhood. Future generations will have no idea what a kodak moment refers to and that just sucks.

From their press release:

Eastman Kodak Company (the “Company”) (OTB: EKDKQ.PK) announced today that, as a result of its ongoing strategic review process and commitment to drive sustainable profitability through its most valuable business lines, it plans to phase out its dedicated capture devices business – comprising digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames – in the first half of 2012. Kodak will instead expand its current brand licensing program, and seek licensees in these categories. Following this decision, Kodak’s Consumer Business will include online and retail-based photo printing, as well as desktop inkjet printing.

Kodak has contacted its retail partners, and is working closely with them to ensure an orderly transition. Kodak will continue to honor all related product warranties, and provide technical support and service for its cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames.

“For some time, Kodak’s strategy has been to improve margins in the capture device business by narrowing our participation in terms of product portfolio, geographies and retail outlets. Today’s announcement is the logical extension of that process, given our analysis of the industry trends,” said Pradeep Jotwani, President, Consumer Businesses, and Kodak Chief Marketing Officer.

A few months ago I remember reading about how Kodak went from being a leader in its field to a struggling company that is almost ready to shut down, can’t find the article right now but it was a really interesting read.

RIP Kodak.

Thanks to CNET for the initial story.

- Suramya

February 9, 2012

Biocomputer can retrieve images from DNA storage

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,News/Articles,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 4:06 PM

Practical bio computers took a step closer to reality thanks to work by Sivan Shoshani1, Dr. Ron Piran1, Prof. Yoav Arava2& Prof. Ehud Keinan. They have managed to create a Biomolecular computer that is capable of decoding images stored in DNA. Biocomputers are something that I find really interesting and I try to keep an eye out for any new developments in the field. Even though this doesn’t sound like a big deal, its a huge step forward because till now we could only store a very limited amount of data in Biocomputers (stuff like a couple of 0′s & 1′s) but now that we can store an image we are closer to being able to store more complex data and the best part is that since this doesn’t require an interface it can work directly with organic flesh.

A biomolecular computer made in a test tube has proved capable of decoding images stored in DNA. The computer, built by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and Technion–Israel Institute of Technology have created a mixture of DNA molecules, enzymes, and ATP (the substance that provides energy for our own cells) that successfully decrypts information from a DNA chip, in this case the images shown above. The images were first encrypted onto the chip, and then decrypted by the computer and stained in a way that displays only particular sequences. This means that several images can be overlapped on the same chip, then recovered separately by looking for separate genetic sequences.

The boffins have published their paper in Angewandte Chemie, a German journal of chemistry. Tried to read the paper but unfortunately its behind a pay wall and I am curious about the issue but not curious enough to pay for access.

Thanks to The Verge for the initial story.

- Suramya

February 7, 2012

Music for Programming?

Filed under: Interesting Sites — Suramya @ 3:41 PM

As some of you know, I love listening to music and am usually listening to music in the background when working/coding as the music serves to filter out the background noise and lets me focus. I got into the habit of doing this at work at my first company where I had a really loud co-worker who just wouldn’t stop talking. I usually put my playlist on shuffle and listen to all sorts of music when working (Kishore Kumar, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, Boney M etc etc).

Apparently other folks do the same thing and think that listening to music while coding is good and helps you concentrate. Found this entire website called musicForProgramming(); which has hour long mix tapes intended for listening while programming to aid concentration and increase productivity. I tried the first tape for about 5 mins and then called it quits. Unfortunately the music annoyed me more than it helped me concentrate because it was just a bunch of strings, lutes etc and I prefer music with more rhythm & beats.

However plenty of other folks have recommended this site so you should check it out and see it helps you pretend to work more efficiently.

Regards,

Suramya

February 5, 2012

Ironsky: Nazi’s on the Moon!

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 8:23 PM

Ironsky is a new Science fiction movie that has an interesting premise: In 1945 the Nazis went to the Moon. In 2018 they are coming back. Normally I wouldn’t be this excited about a movie but a few months ago they released three comic books that are prequels to the movie and if the quality of the comics are anything to go by then the movie is going to be amazing. Check out the first issue here.

As per the official site:

Towards the end of World War II the Nazi scientists made a significant breakthrough in anti-gravity. From a secret base built in the Antarctic, the first Nazi spaceships were launched in late ‘45 to found the military base Schwarze Sonne (Black Sun) on the dark side of the Moon. This base was to build a powerful invasion fleet and return to take over the Earth once the time was right.

Now it’s 2018, and it’s the time for the first American Moon landing since the 70′s. Meanwhile the Nazi invasion, that has been over 70 years in the making, is on its way, and the world is goose-stepping towards its doom.

I had planned to post about this movie when I first read the comic back in Oct 2011 but other things came up so this post sat collecting dust in my drafts folder. However they released the Theatrical Poster and I had to share it.

Since this movie is not by big studio’s (in fact a lot of the work was done online via crowd sourcing) I don’t know if it will be released in Bangalore but I am still eagerly waiting for this release.

Check out the movie site: Ironsky.

- Suramya

February 3, 2012

Star Trek Catan: It exists

Filed under: Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:45 AM

Wow! Just wow. I didn’t think that Settlers of Catan could get better, but there is a version of the game based in the Star Trek Universe… Vinit, Surabhi, Pompy… You guys going to buy this?

Official Description:

In Star Trek Catan, players start the game with two small space stations at the intersection of three planets, with each planet supplying resources based on the result of a dice roll. Players collect and trade these resources – Dilithium, Tritanium, food, oxygen and water – in order to build spaceships that connect regions in the galaxy, establish small and large space stations at new intersection points in order to increase resource acquisition, and acquire development cards that provide victory points (VPs) or special abilities.

On a dice roll of 7, a Klingon ship swoops in to prevent resource production on one planet, while taxing spacegoers who hold too many resources.

The one new element in Star Trek Catan compared to the Settlers version is a set of character cards, each featuring one of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Scott, Uhura, Chekov, Chapel, Rand or Sarek. Each character card has two special powers that the holder can use on his turn, such as a forced trade.

I think I need to go buy this even though I probably will never play it. Even the board looks pretty cool.

- Suramya

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