Trying Debian Lenny

Debian’s latest stable release Lenny arrived on Valentine’s day. Previously, I installed Debian using the net-install CD. This time Debian has made it easier, now you can download a single CD and install a fully functional Debian GNU linux with Gnome Desktop Environment. This CD or DVD is the first CD or DVD in the set. Debian Lenny is very easy to install in both text mode or a Graphical installer. The disk partition portion of the graphical installer was a little difficult for me to get familiar with but after a little difficulty I finally got it working. After that installation went smooth, it automatically detected all hardware and Internet settings and I logged into the same old Gnome desktop.

But the system you log on after the installation is very basic. It has two web browsers Epiphany and IceWeasel but it does not have Synaptic package manager. I am comfortable using apt but I prefer synaptic because I am lazy. This single CD install method does not install Open Office and Gimp. I decided to download the software I needed. But when I tried to install them from root terminal I got errors. After some troubleshooting I found that Lenny’s graphical installer installs packages not from the latest stable release but from debian-volatile. What is Volatile?

Some packages aim at fast moving targets, such as spam filtering and virus scanning, and even when using updated data patterns, they do not really work for the full time of a stable release. The main goal of volatile is allowing system administrators to update their systems in a nice, consistent way, without getting the drawbacks of using unstable, even without getting the drawbacks for the selected packages. So debian-volatile will only contain changes to stable programs that are necessary to keep them functional.

After changing the sources.list I installed Synaptic package manager and after that I will make a list of software I need to install. I will be downloading VLC media player, Urdu fonts, Pidgin, Gimp and Open Office. I am also thinking about installing Firefox but I am not too sure about it. I feel that Firefox is no more a lightweight web browser. It is heavy, slow and does not match the Desktop environment. I am forcing myself to like Epiphany web browser.

If you are an Ubuntu user trying Lenny, then remember that Debian uses a package called locales for dealing with National or native language support. If you did not add your language during the installation then you can run dpkg-reconfigure locales from root terminal to reconfigure locales.

If you are trying to write in Urdu language on Debian lenny and characters do not join correctly then you should replace the default Urdu keyboard layout ‘pk’ (found in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ ) with this one. I have filed a bug report for this error and hope it will get fixed.

I also tried LXDE on Debian and I am very excited about testing it on an old computer.

Open Source Alternative

Open Source Alternative is a directory that lists open source alternatives to popular commercial software. So if you ever come across a situation where you need some commercial software but you don’t want to buy it or you don’t have time for it. Then search Open Source Alternative for a free alternative. For example see osalt’s Photoshop page where it lists five software that you can use instead of using Photoshop. Some software may not be as sophisticated as their commercial counterparts but they can work for you and they are free too.

Where to Find Free Clip Art

free-clipart-imagesSearching the web for clip art is not as much trouble as it used to be. Now you can use Google Image search and in the Advanced Image Search you can select Clip Art from the Content types. But then not all the clip art shown in search results is available for you to use on your website or documents due to copyright restrictions. So you will need to visit the web page where this clip art is displayed to look for license information or ways to obtain permission to reuse that work. However, there really is a whole lot of Open Source, royalty free clip art that is in public domain and you can use it, modify it, copy and re-distribute it. In this post we will discuss how to find free clip art and where to find it.

Open Clip Art

Try Open Clip Art for all your clip art needs. It has whole wealth of Clip Art organized in tags and most of these images are in Public Domain which allows you to reuse them anywhere you want. You can even download the entire Open Clip Art collection to your hard disk in svg and png formats. See how you can integrate Open Clip Art with Open Office or use it with Microsoft Office Applications. Some files at Open Clip Art may not be available in png format you can still download the SVG file and convert it using free and open source tools such as Inkscape or the Gimp. You can also use these images on Google Docs and Google Sites too. But please do not link directly to the image file on Open Clip Art’s server. Instead download the png file to your hard disk and then upload it to your document.


Try Flickr’s Advanced Search to look for images, pictures, photographs, drawings and other art work that are released under a creative commons license that allows you to redistribute or build your work upon them. This license is called Creative Commons Attribute. You will be surprised to see how much high quality content is available for you to re-use.

Remember using someone else’s work without their permission is not just bad manners but it is also copyright infringement. Most people on the web do not mind sharing their work, after all thats why they publish it on the web in the first place. Instead of stealing someone’s work it would be much better if you ask them politely to use their work on your website or document. Don’t forget to mention that you will give them the credit for the work.

Free and Open Source Video Editing Tools for Windows

I personally believe that Windows Movie Maker is probably the best solution for newbies and beginners to video editing. Most of us just want to edit our picnic and wedding movies we created with our camcorders, digital cameras or mobile phones. Windows Movie Maker is a good choice if you want to add text, simple video effects, background music, voice over, or things like that. And above all it comes free with your Windows XP PC.

But then sometimes you buy a product that saves your pictures and videos in a format which is not supported by windows movie maker. In that case, or if you want to do something that windows movie maker can’t, then you will need some other free video editing tools.

DVDx is a free tool that allows you to copy DVD and convert it as VCD, SVCD, DivX, AVI or WMV in one step. DVDX is a free and open source software. It has a simple user interface, and there is support available for free. There is also a paid version of the software.

MediaCoder is a free and open source transcoder that can help you convert your audio and video files from one format to another. It supports many popular formats such as AVI, XviD, DivX, MP, CD, VCD, DVD, Windows Media audio and video, mpeg, Mp4, among many others. For support options it has a Wiki with conversion tutorials and other related information.

DVDStyler is a free and open source DVD authoring application based on dvdauthor. It allows you to create your own professional looking DVDs that can be played on almost any standalone DVD player and your computer. You can create menus, buttons, add pictures, music, chapters, etc. You can even add your own subtitles to the movies. It has a simple uncluttered interface. Support is available via mailing list, user forum and Wiki. While downloading make sure that you download win32 version for your windows computer. DVDstyler is a cross platform application so you would also see links to downloads for other operating systems aswell.

I love Videohelp Forum for all my video editing related questions. It already has many well written guides to do just about anything with your videos. They also have tools directory that lists hundereds of audio video editing tools categorized as freeware, adware and non-free labes. So if there is something you want to do with your movies but don’t know how to do it and don’t want to spend money on expansive video editing software then videohelp forums is the place for you.

Why Open Office

Why I am going to train my brothers with Open Office? First, I think that we should be able to work with both open and proprietary productivity tools. Secondly, I dislike MS Office.

My brothers have no such bias towards Microsoft. In fact, they love MS products. They think that Office 2000 is easier to use than Open Office. I do not argue them, Since I haven’t used either of these suites to a point where I could say that one of them is more difficult. I don’t blame my brothers for taking the MS side in this debate. In an environment where every one is using pirated Office XP every where, they think that Microsoft opens a world of opportunities to them. Who uses Open Office in Pakistan? They ask me and I can not answer this question.

Free Software in Pakistan

I was asking myself, if Linux and GNU based software are so good, free and legal then why Pakistanis don’t go for them. Some reasons are pretty obvious and others, we will have to figure those out.

  1. Pakistanis who spend their time in front of computers at work are forced to work in a Microsoft Windows environment.
  2. Home users in Pakistan demand full multimedia support so that they could watch pirated videos on their computers and enjoy pirated music. So who cares about using a free legal software.
  3. Young computer users prefer to spend their time playing games and most such games are made for Windows. They also don’t like the way Linux based distros treat Instant Messaging. You can not show or view web cam of your MSN Buddies using Gaim.
  4. Small Businesses, aren’t they aware of the fact that Linux has tools which could increase their productivity.
  5. What about schools? Does any body ever tried to sell thin clients running on Linux to any local school? Like that $100 laptop thingie, can’t we do such a thing in Pakistan? May be we can not create a laptop but we can atleast equip schools with low price, highly reliable and better learning machines. Reading about edubuntu I think that it has so many learning oppurtunities, it is a great tool for schools.

There is a lot more to it. Please add your reasons in comments. Why you think Linux is not catching up in Pakistan?