My First Day with KDE4 on Ubuntu Hardy Heron

Back in the 90s, I used to install and reinstall Windows 95 over and over again due to one reason or another (and I am sure it was the same for any Windows user). The last time I did a clean install, though, was 2 years ago, when I bought this laptop and killed the default Dell partitions to make it dual-boot. Installing the shiny new Kubuntu Hardy Heron on the day of its release gave me a geeky high I never knew I missed. Yesterday was my first actual day with Kubuntu 8.04. This post started as text notes for personal reference in the future, but I decided to put it up online instead of letting all that typing go to waste just in case it is useful to somebody. So here it is, my first day with Hardy Heron, full of installations, documented.

NVIDIA Drivers

Installing NVIDIA drivers took a bit longer than Gutsy, as Envy is not compatible with Hardy Heron as of now. There were two choices: go with the 92.something drivers available in Synaptic or download the latest drivers from the NVIDIA website. I (unfortunately for me) chose the second option, and ended up having to download build-essentials, rebuild the driver kernel, and fix /etc/X11/xorg.conf multiple times before my drivers took pity on me and started working.


Both Wireless and Wired network drivers worked out-of-the-box without any special configuration necessary. It seems that the days of madwifi are gone for good.


You have two options: firefox-2 and the firefox-3 beta. I lost my mind and decided to go with firefox-3. After the installation, I logged in to various websites that I use the most, to save my username/passwords, but when I started installing the extensions I can’t live without, not even 10% were enabled with the new version – there’s almost no backwards compatibility in firefox-3 as far as extensions are concerned. At the end, I had to uninstall firefox-3 and reinstall firefox-2, but not before I tried running them both in parallel without success. Maybe it is possible to make them work that way, but I had better things to do.

Firefox extensions

As a result of my previous firefox-3 blunder, the extension installations stopped working. I got an unexpected 203 error whenever I tried to install an extension. Thankfully, the errors went away after I deleted the extensions.rdf file in my ~/.mozilla/firefox folder, and I was able to install everything I needed.

Flash installation from source went without issues.


Nothing has changed for Apache, MySQL and PHP, so AMP installation went smoothly. I did the standard sudo apt-get install blah blah, Addtype in apache.conf, a2enmod to enable mode_rewrite, installed phpmyadmin and was able to restored everything from my USB harddisk.


My Dell Inspiron 9400 has an extra “subwoofer” – in Gutsy, I had to compile ALSA from source in order to make it work, but I didn’t have to do it with Hardy. So I installed amarok and was expecting that the mp3 playback will start after amarok prompts to install mp3 support, but it began with a klauncher error. This thread helped me fix the error using kdeinit, and amarok started properly, though mp3s were still not working. After an hour of installing dozens of gstreamer good, bad and ugly codecs and xine plugins, mp3 playback and shoutcast streaming were still broken. During my tinkering, I enabled ALSA from amarok configuration manually, and everything started working! It took one more hour to build a mySQL playlist database from my 210GB mp3 folder, but that’s not such a bad performance.

Essential Software

With the music working, I had enough energy left in me to install all the essential applications that I could think of (and this post will serve as a reminder the next time I have to install from scratch). They were:

  • Skype – Instead of downloading the .deb package, I added it to the 3rd party repository from the repository manager using deb stable non-free .
  • Quanta Development Environment – I like its PHP syntax highlighting, fish and ftp support, and the built-in SVN integration.
  • Eclipse – for C++ / cdt
  • The remaining firefox addons and toolbars, google/stumbleupon fireftp etc.
  • VLC Player – For vlc, I added the mediabuntu repository from , which also had some upgraded plugins and codecs.
  • ktorrent – since the next Battlestar Galactica episode was going to be available the next day 😀
  • Instead of having a local subdomain based php website structure like before ( site1.localhost , site2.localhost ), I used the clean install opportunity to create some virtual local servers, so now I have http://site1/ , http://site2/ and so on. This page shows how.
  • virtualbox – Since I spend more time on linux than on Windows, and since I still need to do some development on VS.NET and MSSQL, so I installed virtualbox. If I manage to set everything up properly, I will be able to get rid of the windows partition altogether, or atleast abandon it to gather digital dust.
  • msttcorefonts – They make a few software look nicer.
  • Java JDK and JRE – JRE for eclipse and JRE just in case…

And this is how I spent my first day with Hardy Heron before sleepiness made me … go to sleep. Day two was spent exploring and getting used to KDE4, plasmoids and plasma. In the next post, I will try to write about my first impressions of KDE4, plasma and plasmoids, and how and why it wants to change the desktop experience (for better or worse).

OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Was Launched in Pakistan Last Month

olpc-launch-africaThe OLPC Pilot Project hit Pakistan last month without much fanfare. Infact, I don’t know of any tech blog that covered the event, and was told about the launch only by my brother. This came as a surprise considering that the whole world was uber-excited when the project was announced.

The OLPC guys have a wiki running here, but their page about Pakistan seems to be outdated as the last entries are two weeks old. Though Negroponte says criticizing OLPC is criticizing the church (?!) but I will risk being labeled a fundamentalist and criticize it nonetheless.

I don’t really see the criteria they used to distribute all 27 of the laptops (worth 5000$ or so – a huge fortune) among 150 children in the school – it is more like 0.18 laptop per child instead of one laptop per child. Also, if the laptops are to stay in the school (who in their right mind would let those starving kids take the laptops home, right?), then the kids can’t really have much fun with them, but If 27 selected children are allowed to take the laptops home, then I feel sorry for the remaining 123 (yea I know some of those are too young but still…). How do they use them, do they take turns? An hour every week per child?

I have been searching for news regarding the project every month to check on the progress of the OLPC project ever since it was announced, and I must say I am pretty disappointed. First, I found this post from Dr. Habib Khan “(PhD Harvard)” asking for people interested to help localize the English based OS, and then I found this page from CRULP which shows that they got together with OLPC to localize the PC, but the OLPC wiki mentions that the OS is still running English, which makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Did they have a deadline to meet, or did they simply not care? Or did they package each laptop with a universal translator right our of Startrek?

Some more questions that are bothering me:

  • What good will 27 odd laptops that don’t work and need Linux expertise to be of any use – do?
  • Did any ISP come forward and offer to provide internet connectivity to the school? What good is the laptop’s mesh technology without internet?
  • Has somebody Pakistani volunteered to teach those kids?
  • What became of the committee that was to be formed by our beloved MOIT to “study the feasibility” of the project?

The OLPC wiki says:

We distributed 39 XO localized in Dari and Pashto, official languages of Afghanistan.

Huh? I thought it was supposed to be a launch for Pakistani children – I do feel sorry for the homeless Afghan refugees, but don’t we have under-privileged children of our own, and didn’t Afghanistan get its own OLPC launch? The OLPC guys even imported two Afghan volunteers to help out with the launch as the kids can’t speak anything but Pushto/Dari. What about that CRULP project? Something is not right here. They call this a Pakistani launch, but it seems to me that the only thing Pakistani about the launch is the location.

Also, we have rich (lots of them) and generous (a few) people right here in Pakistan. Did anyone offer the Pakistani community the same “buy-one-laptop-and-a-third-world-child-gets-one-free” deal? I would have bought one for my child if someone had guaranteed that the other laptop would be used as advertised. Hell, I would even have volunteered for the project, and I’m sure there are more than 27 people like me out there in Pakistan. A simple campaign with a dozen Pakistani “stars” would surely have brought out the spirit of charity from the hearts a few of the rich.

But then again, perhaps the OLPC is just a tool to make a few thousand Westerners feel good about themselves – maybe all 27 of them can sleep peacefully after the knowledge that they have donated 100$ worth of stuff to the Afghan kids – the same kids whom they bombed out of Afghanistan not a very long time ago. Actually, giving laptops to Pakistani children would not have them the same bang for the buck as giving laptops to the poor Afghans, so yea, it all makes sense now. We need to get bombed back into the stone-ages before our children earn their OLPC.

So the hype around the OLPC project did get me excited when it was announced, but looking back, it seems wrong, almost evil. An ad featuring the OLPC will fit right into the Cordaid campaign (click on the image to see more), and this concludes my rant of the day.