jump to navigation

Best Android Apps for Children: 5 year old girl May 7, 2013

Posted by NAyK in android, Apps, children, games, Reviews, tablet.

android_logoChildren and tablets is a controversial topic. Mostly it feels wrong to let a child be unsupervised for long periods over any media, whether it is television or tablets. However, the reality is that parents tend to use gadgets as babysitters… and honestly… (sadly)… so have we. We have however tried to prevent too much “alone” time on the tablet and encourage as much participation when possible. So when on the tablet, we encourage our daughter, we have a 5-year-old, to ask us for help… and many of her games, we play too, and even try to attain game goals together (ie. collect as many coins). Additionally, the tablet is a family tablet and does not “belong” to our daughter… so it helps her to know that we all share it together (even though children specific apps dominate the tablet).

Anyway, the following is a personal list of what we as parents use for our five year old daughter on our Sony Android Tablet. We’ve really benefited from these kinds of lists as we go about choosing apps on our tablet… and so we too want to contribute to other parents like us, who are looking for Android specific apps for 5-year-olds.  The following list is in no particular order.


1. The “Dr. Seuss” books by Oceanhouse.

drseussOceanhouse has done a really good job in preparing books for reading on the tablet… and we especially like the highlighting of whole words as well as the option of our daughter interact with the words and pictures by tapping. We don’t think of Oceanhouse books as a way to teach a child how to read. But we enjoy the books and also like seeing our daughter interact with them. We’ve also used the “Little Critter” books as well, which our daughter enjoys. We haven’t tried the smaller books because they are expensive, and don’t have that many pages.

Parent participation: Low

Mostly our daughter has and can go through the entire book by herself, she does like it when we go through the pictures with her. Plus, she likes to share some of the funny events in the book with us. For instance, the book “Green Eggs and Ham” has in one screen a voice under the water.

2. Other books? Charlie Brown Christmas

Another book that we did like was Charlie Brown Christmas… though we were disappointed that there were not that many “songs” as in the interactive book that we had few years ago. Still, Charlie Brown Christmas does not have the high production values of Oceanhouse yet there too there is word-by-word highlighting and the story is nice.


Subway Surfer

subwaysurferMy daughter likes cars/racing etc, so the action games she really liked and was surprisingly adept at, is Subway Surfer. I say this in the past tense because after a while, the goal of playing has changed. She no longer finds it challenging and the goals, like getting a new surfboard, are just too difficult. (even for me). It would take us a month or more, to get one of those special surfboards… which is just too much to ask for a 5 year old to wait. I did get close to 200000 coins, but then, she just went and bought the latest characters and cheap surfboards available. Still, Subway Surfer is fun for her, and she plays it quite often.

Parent involvement: Medium, because I (father) play the game with her often. We’re a team. My wife does not play it at all. But when my daughter plays, she plays alone (I don’t have to watch her).

Beach Buggy Blitz

beachbuggyAnother game that my daughter really liked, though it was, and still remains, quite difficult for her to handle for long periods, is Beach Buggy Blitz. It was really difficult for me too… but when I figured it out, then both my daughter and I started having shared goals. Like buying a new character, or getting an upgrade. Now, we’ve gotten all the upgrades… so there is really nothing more to look forward to. So we don’t play that game much anymore.

Parent involvement: Medium, because like Subway Surfer, I play with her. But again, when she’s driving, she drives alone. Also she needs help to read the missions.

My daughter never really took to Angry Birds… though, she occasionally opens that game and plays for a while.

She has played a bit of Hill Climb Racer, but maybe again because she likes the goal of buying trucks and new scenes, and she lets me do most of the driving.

She also enjoyed the jumping and running games Manuganu (which she played in another tab, but we don’t have it on our tablet).


Clouds and Sheep

cloudsandsheepIn this category, if you haven’t gotten it already, we would strongly recommend Clouds and Sheep. She really enjoyed it from 4 years old… and now, having completed most of the challenges, doesn’t play it much. But she played it very often and really really liked it. We bought the premium version and did not regret it.

Parent involvement: Medium, mainly to to read the signs/hints/challenges to her.


Spy Mouse

spymouseCurrently, this game is my daughter’s favourite. Spy Mouse has been something that my daughter has played and played over the past few weeks (Since we just bought it). It’s got a maze like interface and requires speed as well as thinking. We are surprised by how well our daughter recognizes the characters of the cats, and is able to not just focus on the goal of getting cheese, but interact with the game play… see about pushing the limit of how close the cat can get before escaping etc.

Parent involvement: High (for some levels): Here, my daughter often asks for help to cross a level. Difficult portions include places that require speed and precision, and sometimes it can be quite frustrating for my daughter when the mouse gets caught. So she asks for help.

Other games

She loved Cut the Rope, but finished all the levels.

She also liked Where’s my Water, though does not play it as much anymore.

One game that she likes is Bad Piggies… and plays that occasionally… trying out new combinations. Similarly, Amazing Alex is something she is getting used to.

She also liked/likes Where’s Waldo. Often needs our help, but still finds it intriguing.


We don’t have any dress up games on our tablet yet, though she likes playing it when she gets a chance on other people’s tablets or ipads. We wish the Toca-Boca games (from iPad) were present in Android. I like the dress up game there. Even the cooking Toca-Boca games are fun.

Cooking games, like making, baking, pizza, cakes, juices etc she likes. There was a panda cooking / restaurant game that was not as fast/manic as the other restaurant games currently on android, and she liked that for a while. The problem is that it does not work without wifi (which is really frustrating). And also, it stops being interesting quite soon.

***There are many other games, but I can’t remember all of them. Will update this post when I remember. Hope this helps.


Ubuntu is finally working on my computer! Ubuntu 10.10 Review October 13, 2010

Posted by NAyK in Linux, Linux Mint, Recommendation, Reviews, Screenshots, Ubuntu, WINE.
add a comment

It is with absolute delight that I report that for the first time ever, on my desktop, an Ubuntu distro is finally working.

I’ve always struggled with Linux distros on my via-(integrated graphics)-chipset. Hardly any distro, apart from PCLinux and Mandriva detected my VIA hardware. Previously, all the Ubuntu distros I tested would have a few positives, but also a boat-load of negatives. Usually, Ubuntu would recognise my internet, but at the same time the graphics drivers wouldn’t allow me to go for more than 800/600 resolution. Therefore I would only rely on Linux Mint or on PCLinux etc for my Linux needs.

However, this time, Ubuntu 10.10 (Meerkat) was (and is) working!

The basic installation process:

1. The installation process was relatively smooth, except it took a long time. Longer than usual. (I’m not sure why).

2. The live CD took a long time to load, plus I was suprised by how “primitive” the Ubuntu logo looked during install. (There was a Ubuntu text, plus four dots. What’s what that?)

3. The options of installation were much better than before, especially giving more control over the partition process.

3b. It was great to see that a VIA driver for my chipset and audio was installed automatically. (ie. it detected my hardware and installed something appropriate).

3c. Also, after installation, it was nice to see that there were only a few updates in the update manager. Suggested that it was a fresh/stable release.

Getting started

4. The bootloader, as usual, recognised my Windows partition, though the default boot screen was boring as usual. (primarily text). somehow, with openSUSE and PClinux, even Mint, I have come to expect a more attractive boot loader by default. (ie. I know I can do some tweeking and install one for Ubuntu. Maybe I will do that one day).

5. The default look/feel was functional (as I have come to expect from GNOME), but somehow it didn’t feel so bad as before. Maybe I have become used to GNOME afterall. It certainly looked better than before.


6.  the internet was working, without needing any configuration. An amazing feature!

7. Also, as soon as I tried out an avi file, Ubuntu asked me if I wanted to install the drivers. I said yes, and most of the codecs were automatically installed. Easy-peasy. (I was concerned that there was no audio, but it turned out that audio was in mute, I wonder how.)

8. I had to manually install chrome, flash and a few other software, like K3B. For some I used Ubuntu’s Software Centre, and for others I used Synaptic.

9. I was concerned that there was no file viewer. ie. I wasn’t able to open a file manager. So I installed Dolphin, and even that problem was solved.

9b. I was also able to install Photoshop 7, using WINE (after installing WINE). The only problem I had was that I had to copy the contents of the CD onto the computer and then make the setup.exe file executable for WINE.

10. there were a couple of times when Ubuntu suddenly hung. I think it was during the time I wanted to change the screensaver.

11. I wish there was an option to change GRUB options through GNOME. However, with some google-found guidance, I realised that Ubuntu 10.10 has changed it’s grub editing options, and it was simple enough. Sadly (still) my Windows XP is my default OS. But I am really enjoying fiddling with Ubuntu (spending more time with it than with Windows).

12. Also, I am concerned that the booting time is not that fast, as some were predicting. When I choose Ubuntu, it waits for a few seconds and only then starts loading Ubuntu. I wonder if there is a configuration issue there.

13. I was also unimpressed with the broadcast option (the one that connects Ubuntu with Facebook and Twitter). It took a long time to set up, and the options to view were too limited to be helpful. I much preferred going to the original Facebook/Twitter pages for updates. Perhaps in the future it will be better.

14. On the whole, I have been quite happy with the general functionality and even look/feel of Ubuntu. It has worked pretty well and easily, and for an Ubuntu distro, that is saying much. I don’t think I’ll be needing Linux Mint after all.

Ubuntu Screenshot

Linux Mint 9: Installation Review – A Not-So-Happy Story August 16, 2010

Posted by NAyK in First Impressions, Linux, Linux Mint, Reviews, Windows, Working on Linux.

Fed up with my buggy PCLinuxOS, I decided to install the new Linux Mint 9. After burning the installation DVD image (which is just over 700MB), I decided to install it on my Lenovo Thinkpad Z60m.

The loading process of the Live DVD was relatively smooth, though it felt a little slow to load the live image.  (PCinux is still faster in the Live CD department)

I then decided to install, and it asked for the customary questions like location, keyboard etc.

I liked the new look and feel, almost felt like openSUSE’s installation process in a good way.

At the partition table point, I found the graphics a little too small and the default processes difficult to understand.  I was anyway going to the advanced option, but PCLinux’s large view size of proposed partitioning table, seemed for once, more helpful.

I choose to delete my PCLinux partition and mounted all my other Windows partitions making sure I did not format those.

I was also asked whether I wanted to import any preferences from Windows like Firefox settings and  MyDocuments from Windows. First I checked it, and clicked ok. but then I changed my mind and went back to uncheck it. Please note that at this time there was no confirmation from Linux Mint on whether my options were going to be effective.

Only after all the options were listed, did Linux Mint begin the process of actually installing, which is customary.

While the installation was going on I noticed that the wifi was not detected, and I guess it was too late to look to change that, so I thought I’d fix it after the installation is done. I was hoping that Ubuntu’s spectacular record of being able to configure my internet connection in my desktop automatically would filter into the wireless connection as well.

The installation process took about 25 minutes, after which I rebooted. I noted that Linux Mint was the default operating system, and I wished that Mint had given me the option of choosing which operating system I wanted to default. I usually (curses upon me) still choose Windows as my default operating system.

Anyway, going into Linux Mint, I just couldn’t get the wifi to work. I noted that there were no windows wifi drivers installed, but because my wireless was not detected, no way for me to install them! I knew that I had to log into Windows to figure out the problem.

…when I returned to windows, to my shock (not horror, because I had backups), my entire My Documents folder had been erased. I had other folders in that partition, and they were ok, untouched (I hope) and working, but the MyDocuments was empty. This was shocking, especially since I had never experienced something like this with Linux before.

However, when I returned to windows, to my shock (not horror, because I had backups), my entire My Documents folder had been erased. I had other folders in that partition, and they were ok, untouched (I hope) and working, but the MyDocuments was empty. This was shocking, especially since I had never experienced something like this with Linux before. I forgot about trying to fix Linux Mint and went about restoring my documents using my backups (alas they were a few days old, so I lost some of the work I did over the weekend, but not much).

I am now quite disturbed and will probably in reaction do away with Linux Mint and … install some other operating system in my Laptop. However for my desktop I will still try to persevere with Mint to see whether this is a one-off problem or an actual bug.

So that’s my not-so-happy tale with Mint, hope others met with a better fate.

PCLinuxOS 2009.2 Installation Review November 9, 2009

Posted by NAyK in Discussions-Conclusions-Hopes, Linux, Mandriva, OpenSUSE, PCLinuxOS, Recommendation, Reviews, Working with Linux.

PCLinuxOSIn the days when Ubuntu 9.10, Mandriva 2010 and openSUSE 11.2 are having their releases, installing PCLinuxOS 2009.2 seems like taking a step backwards. But how could I refuse to try what I had considered to be my favourite Linux distro? In fact, the only reason why I hadn’t tried PCLinuxOS for so long was because I just didn’t have the time. And so I waited for many months with a brand new PCLinux (KDE) ISO image. Not that I found the time. Rather, because all these new distros started emerging, I felt compelled to give the new PCLinux another shot. So, with a toddler running around the house potentially distroying my computer, I took the plunge at 12:22pm, on Sunday.The following is primarily an installation review, though some distribution comments may be included.

A note about my system. I’m still using my VIA Desktop of more than 4 years, though I’ve upgraded to 2 GB RAM. No graphics card (only integrated VIA chipset).

12:22pm, Insert LIVE CD (PCLinux 2009.2 KDE).

12:25 Login as guest, with password guest.

I wonder why this double login persists in a live CD. wouldn’t it suffice to function as guest with the ‘root’ password made known via instruction?

My first goal was to check if my internet was working or not. My internet connection is a DSL ethernet cable run via a Belkin wireless router. Usually, I’ve noticed that some Linux’ esp. Ubuntu, has a problem picking up the Belkin router. So I skeptically tried the internet on PCLinux and shocker! It was working. Without any configuration. Well done, PCLinux!!!The  internet did feel a little slow, but I was amazed that it was working.

At about 12:29pm I decided to install, and was introduced to a new(?) procedure of removing drivers.

I didn’t understand why on a LiveCD did you have to “remove drivers”. Wasn’t it more correct to say “choose not to install drivers” or something like that? Anyway, I went along. But when I chose the advanced options and decided to cancel, the entire procedure was canceled and I had to start again. Hmmm.

12:37 pm, the computer said the installation had begun.

12:47pm I was modified the grub.

(sadly, still making Windows XP my default distro).

At 12:49pm I was restarting the computer and ending the CD session.

(I wonder why can’t the CD ejection be automated).

At 12:53pm, after login details etc, the computer opened to a brand new PCLinuxOS desktop!

Note that’s about 24 minutes! A spectacular speed when you think there was a toddler running around trying to press all the buttons including “delete all partitions!!!” :)

The key test, at this stage, was whether the internet was still working. And… yes it was! Hurray.

Knowing however that the PCLinuxOS was a little outdated, I decided to use Synaptic to run a system update.

I did a reload of the repositories. And then, seeing the huge update backlog (I needed about 400MB and I only get free downloads in the night), I decided to only update Firefox, and do the rest later.

I chose Firefox update, but after updating, Firefox crashed. Couldn’t open.

I realised that perhaps PCLinux needed a full update so decided to wait till 2:00am to do the remaining updates. (that’s when I get free download bandwidth).

I didn’t want to stay up all night, so after starting the download, I went to sleep, waking around 7:00am to see whether the updates were done. It seems there was a problem with two of the repositories, but nothing serious seemed to be the problem.

However, it was waiting for me to say “OK”, to acknowledge that there were problems in the repositories… and only then begin the installation. I wish I had investigated (beforehand) how to set up an automatic update in Synaptic that did not require any intervention on my part. Instead I had to wait a long time till the updates were installed… and then, thankfully Firefox was working.

One thing positive was that PCLinux also recognised my screen-resolution, which is something other distros do not seem to be able to do. Of course, I still think I need to install some VIA graphics driver, because the videos, like from Metacafe/Youtube, are not viewing properly (looks like no graphics card). So I’ll probably have to find that (though I wonder whether I should not have installed all the graphics drivers in the first place!).

On the whole, the installation process is pretty painless. There remain certain imperfections, and one wishes for more flexibility in choice (more possible customization for advanced users). But PCLinux’s installation speed is pretty fast; in fact one of the fastest installations out there. And that must be commendable.

Now a few comments about usage.

I know I have only briefly been using PCLinux 2009, so I can’t say how everything works, but a few off-the-cuff comments need to be made.

Look and Feel: The graphics, especially the default wallpaper etc. are not as striking as the previous version. PCLinux 2007, or something like that. That was really nice, and made Blue look cool! This time, PCLinux looks like Fedora, or something like that. Not fun at all. Trying to update the wallpaper wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked it to be. KDE is usually better than GNOME in such matters, so I guess I was expecting something a little more smoother. I had to manually select photos on my desktop. And when I had to chose the photos, from the KDE configuration, there was no preview (it wasn’t working). Which  meant that I had to open external viewers to see the photos. The external viewers too don’t seem to have progressed, with the Windows XP, Image-Preview, being probably the best photoviewer, because it allows arrow key navigation. In the current Linux viewers, the arrow keys are not always the way to navigate, and when yes, then the screen image still needs to be manipulated to allow for a viewable size.

Different attempts: I liked the attempt to install an auto-update button in the task bar. Because that was something that was missing in PCLinux earlier. But this one wasn’t intuitive enough for me to figure out. It seemed to give me many options, and when I clicked any, it usually only opened up Synaptic.

Current state of affairs: The audio is working. And the video, once I update the drivers, should work better. All these were done pretty ok, without any fuss. However, currently (and suddenly), none of my Synaptic repositories are working. I was simply trying to install the Wally Wallpaper program. But Synaptic wasn’t working. Not able to reload. The internet was working though, and that continues to be PCLinux’s saving grace! But I must note that the internet is drastically slower here than in Windows. Perhaps I do need to do a little bit of tweeking.

Finally, Recommendations? About a year ago I would not have hesitated to recommend PCLinux to any beginner user of Linux. It was truly a class apart. But right now, it seems to have developed a few quirks that don’t seem to generate as much confidence in the distro as the previous one. Moreso, it doesn’t seem to have moved ahead. It feels like the old one, though not exactly in the best sort of way. It seems “less better”. Maybe I need to try it a little more, but suddenly I’m not too sure about whether PCLinux is the next big thing in Linux.

Sadly, over the weekend I will be looking to install and test Mandriva 2010 and also later try out openSUSE 11.2, as replacement distros.

Goodbye openSUSE. Hello Linux Mint. January 8, 2009

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Linux, Linux Mint, OpenSUSE, openSUSE 11.1, Recommendation, Reviews, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.

Disclaimer: openSUSE 11.1 is reported to be an excellent upgrade. However on “my” Lenovo laptop openSUSE 11.1 has been a total disaster. This report is therefore a personal report rather than a universal indictment against openSUSE which I still think is one of the best distributions. (this is also not an openSUSE vs Linux Mint post, even though it feels like one)

Linux MintEnough is enough. After numerous attempts to get openSUSE 11.1 working, including many many reinstalls, I finally erased everything in favour of Linux Mint 6 (Felicia… whatever that means!).

My previous escapades with openSUSE have been documented in earlier posts… except that my last post I actually ended in a happy note. I had finally reinstalled openSUSE 11 and then upgraded to openSUSE 11.1. My boot system was still creating problems with the CD, but things were working so far… so I began to use the system. But things just became bad to worse… no audio… no easy program installations… search not working… and the killer lack… no CD recognition!

So I decided, because I actually NEEDED linux to work (especially for CD burning) I choose to install Linux Mint 6. Why Mint? Because Ubuntu couldn’t recognise my wifi driver/connection (and I ONLY have a wifi connection… no ethernet)… so I was pretty handicapped with Ubuntu. Linux Mint on the other hand (using the oft-used-cliche) just worked.

And I must agree… as so many others have discovered… Linux Mint is Ubuntu done right!

The installation was not as fast as I remembered it… but it was effective. Also, I didn’t like the default partition options… (here I just missed openSUSE that does such an excellent default boot option). But that was fixable using the advanced mode. Also I was disappointed with such limited options during the install… (again missing openSUSE), but it was functional. (basically, it would be nice if Linux Mint depended on more than Ubuntu and learned a few things here and there from openSUSE).

When it installed, I missed KDE… but I don’t think I’m going to try KDE until things become clearer between KDE 3.5 and KDE 4.1 (just not comfortable with the in-between life). However the Linux Mint desktop was pretty and usable enough, so that was ok.

Linux Mint recognised my wireless connection immediately.. which was a huge relief. However, when I tried to make a VPN connection (of my college)… I was just not able to find an easy accessible way of doing it. But that’s ok… I didn’t urgently need it (though that’s another thing keeping me dependent on Windows… yes it was easier to do in Windows). There were huge updates to install… but thankfully my fast internet connection could handle it pretty quickly… I shudder to think what I’d do with the older slower connection I used to use… (which I may be returning to next year!!!… due to financial and other reasons). I wish the .iso files were remastered with the updates… (like it’s possible to buy Windows with the service packs… actually I only know the XP experience, not the VISTA).

And then, problems with skype. And sadly, the audio didn’t work and it seems that both openSUSE and Mint… have problems with something called pulseaudio. I can’t understand how default installations are facing such problems… for so long. In my earlier experience with Mint I had the same audio problems… and the fix was similar… but why is the problem still there, I don’t know.

…I must agree… as so many others have discovered… Linux Mint is Ubuntu done right!

Anyway… my mic is not working… yes it’s working in Windows. And no it wasn’t working in openSUSE (even in 11)… but certainly not here. can’t figure out why… but that’ll probably be another story.

But everything else is ok. I had to install (and use) the K3B programme… and that worked.

Also once the MintInstall messed up… and didn’t allow me to install a new programs (I had to go through Synaptic). And then attempt to reload MintInstall many times (over a few reboots) to allow me to reload… and it’s working now. But I feel that the openSUSE one-place-for-everything approach seems better than the LinuxMint way that has several applications… one for update, one for installations, one for… mintNanny (whatever that is!).

And also… another problem I faced in Mint is that because I installed Mint with the external USB harddisk (accidently) connected… the external harddisk interrupts the Grub when it is plugged in. So I have to remove the harddisk and then boot and then plug it again… a bit of a pain, but it’s ok.

And finally… a big problem… which is not a problem but is still a problem… is the automatic (default) Linux modified google search instead of the pure google search. I was first upset about it until I read this post which said that is the way Linux Mint makes its money (by the default search). Hmmm. Ok. I was less upset when I read it, yet I feel it is problematic since there was no information about it or even a choice offered to participate in it. It’s kind of dictated to you… and at best it feels like a bug… at worst it feels like an invasion. Still… I am now keeping the default search, by choice… but I feel there should be a choice to participate in it or not… but that’s just me.

So, now I have a brand new Linux Mint installed. Apart from the above, it’s been working pretty well… no major problems… unlike openSUSE… and that’s a relief.

I must say that I’ve extremely impressed by the graphics experience of Linux Mint. I don’t have a heavy-duty graphics card… but the basic 3D? graphics are pretty cool… and even helpful… which I mean the desktop switcher (between different workspaces). It is really practical and it works. (no, it didn’t work in my openSUSE!). Also I really like it when the workpaces are switched and you have a FULLY FRESH desktop without the applications from other desktops visible in the panel… openSUSE still has the other desktop applications visible, which I think defeats the purpose. Nice Ubuntu? Linux Mint touch.

Also, I was very impressed with the time/date AND WEATHER! applet installed in the panel by default. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder why other distros didn’t think of that (ie. without depending on third-party plugins). Really nice.

My new desktop (yes, I still like flowers) looks like this, below.


Now that’s more like it. openSUSE (KDE 4.1) starts working… finally. December 23, 2008

Posted by NAyK in KDE 4.1, Linux, OpenSUSE, openSUSE 11.1, Recommendation, Reviews, Screenshots, Wallpapers, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.
1 comment so far

openSUSE 11So my openSUSE (KDE 4.1) is finally working. Thanks to all those who gave me moral support and some helpful advice. And yes, KDE 4.1 looks fantastic… and once you get the hang of it… the configuration is much much more powerful. Right now I still haven’t figured out this plasma thing… but at least as a basic (open) desktop… this (featured above) is a start.

From now on, I hope… there’s no turning back to openSUSE 11 or even to that GNOME interface (my gosh, people actually use GNOME in today’s age???).

How did things work?

1. I uninstalled pulseaudio, as was suggested… and that got me my audio back.

2. I went to KDE 4.1 and decided to go slow… and not mess around with the configurations too much. Even then when I right click and image and ask to set it to desktop, it doesn’t work, but I expected that. Instead, I made a folder, put the image in that folder, and connected to that folder from the desktop configuration settings. Plus, I slowly (read without trusting intuition) clicked each button hoping I wouldn’t mess anything up… and yes, finally I was able to configure KDE 4.1 to roughly where I want.

Still many many glitches remain, like I can’t still shutdown/restart from KDE… but now it’s good enough to go seeking the forums for help… that’s if I have time… but now fixing it will be fun. Hope I have many more positive posts about openSUSE in the future.

Below is the screenshot… as proof!


7 things making me tear my hair out after installing openSUSE 11.1 (and some good stuff) December 22, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Brasero, Confessions, First Impressions, Internet, K3B, Linux, OpenSUSE, openSUSE 11.1, Reviews, Software, Wallpapers, Windows, Working on Linux, Working with Linux.

openSUSE 11My previous post was honest, but still irresponsible. It could have given the impression that openSUSE 11.1 was not a good distribution. I’m sure it works perfectly for thousands of people. So I admit that my problems with openSUSE 11.1 are probably only my own…  I guess I’m not that lucky to have openSUSE work on my computer… or I must be dumber than I thought. Still, AFTER I reinstalled EVERYTHING (and I mean EVERYTHING including Windows), I finally got openSUSE 11.1 working… and then I was faced with problems of ‘using’ the distribution and this is that story. In no particular order, this is a list of some of the problems I faced while USING openSUSE 11.1.

I can’t imagine how this could be universal problems… otherwise  the distro would be super-buggy… but maybe it is a problem of openSUSE not recognising my Lenovo laptop (even though it has worked fine in Lenovo for all these years)… but my experiences with 11.1 have simply been terrible.

1. Confusion over KDE 3.5 or KDE 4.1 ??? Chuck it, let’s go to GNOME… but wait, where’s K3B?

As I said in my earlier post, when I installed KDE 4.1, the window crashed simply when I wanted to change the desktop photo. So I realised that KDE 4.1 could not be my novice desktop manager of choice just yet. But after my previous experiences of crashing my entire system by just meddling with the boot configuration, I decided to work with GNOME. At least there was only one manager to work with. So what that I hate GNOME, how bad could it be in openSUSE?

Well, I was happy that the wi-fi worked in GNOME, but when I wanted to do a simple bittorrent download I found some strange program called Monsoon. OK, I thought, how bad could it be, but I couldn’t change any of the view settings… like if I wanted to see the peers who were giving the highest speeds, I couldn’t adjust the windows. Enough of that, I said, I want Azureus (VUZE). I got it without a problem, but then, when I launched it, it would crash all the time. OK, let’s go for the trusted KTorrent… and I was invited to install half of KDE base systems. But that’s ok… I needed K3B anyway… so might as well install these files, I thought. Well.. KTorrent worked fine (phew). But now it was CD burning time… and that GNOME Brasero burning couldn’t even recognise my blank CD. Instead GNOME kept openning up another CD burning app, that wasn’t allowing me to burn a CD image onto the CD. Hmm… no more waiting, let’s install K3B… but when I launched K3B… nothing happened… no launch, nothing. I was stuck, I really needed that CD burned, but I couldn’t get the GNOME CD burners to work and K3B wasn’t working. My plan, install the entire KDE base and files, which I did, and I even restarted for good-measure. And viola! K3B worked in GNOME (all it took was the support of the ENTIRE KDE interface).. surely there’s an easy way than that.

2. Back to KDE, but wait, what KDE is this???

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I switched back to KDE (3.5) because who wants to be stuck with GNOME anyway. But wait, some of the functionality of KDE was missing, especially the shut down button. There was no shutdown. I had to logout and only then shut down. Whaat? (ok, I know there’s a fix somewhere, but please, this is openSUSE 11.1 !!! should this be happening?)

3. Repair, no repair, but still repaired… whaaat?

As I admitted earlier, I am a windows – linux user (ie. I regularly dual-boot). So I need the openSUSE grub install. However, as expected, when I installed Windows ‘after’ openSUSE, I lost the GRUB, and I knew I had to repair the openSUSE installation to fix the GRUB. I ran the CD and when the GRUB was being fixed, it didn’t recognise my Windows installation. That’s strange, I thought, and I manually entered the Windows booting code, as I remembered it. But the GRUB gave me an error, and I thought I’d rather not mess with it anyway, so I cancelled the installation, it told me that things are not repaired and I went to windows hoping to deal with this problem later.

4. Movies do not play in Kaffiene… so why have it in the first place (hurray for VLC)

Even after installing all the proprietory drivers, I still couldn’t get Kaffiene, the first-choice player, to play my .avi files. I had to install VLC to do that. So, why’s Kaffiene the default if after codecs are installed, it still doesn’t play what I would want to play?

However, when I was rebooting… to go to windows… I found a brand new GRUB installed, with Windows as default. Wow, is my computer haunted or what?

5. External harddisk. My external hard-disk does not work if I do not unmount it properly from Windows. For instance, if I, for whatever reason, pull the hard-disk cord in Windows, in Linux it will not mount the system and tell me to go back to Windows to eject it properly. What?

6. Audio has disappeared

In all this… somewhere along the way, and I have no idea where, I’ve lost the audio of my openSUSE. Either it is when I installed the codecs or when I installed the whole KDE system, I don’t know, but right now I have no audio, and I don’t know why.

7. Terrible default wallpapers. I know this is not a biggie, but couldn’t there be a major revision of what we find in the default wallpapers. That would add so much more value!

(under miscellaneous… big icons, why KDE why? )

AND THE small MERCIES (What is going well)

Not everything is bad. I had to reinstall Windows all of yesterday, and it was a striking constrast to the ease of installing Linux. In the Windows world we laptop owners are spoiled by the drivers being preinstalled… but when I lost everything… including all my drivers, I realised I had to install everything, one by one…. update again and again… restart countless times… and I haven’t even got to my programs yet! So it’s great to know that Linux, and especially openSUSE is actually much more easier to install and certainly more fun. The good things

1. Wi-fi is working. No problems there.In constrast, just to get the internet working in Windows. I had to get the wifi drivers, but before that I needed three other drivers from three different locations, before I could get that driver to work. Of course that’s three restarts as well.

2. No restarts. I know I’ve already said it, but I’ve done so many installations in openSUSE and not once have I needed to restart (besides the point that I choose to restart once, but I didn’t need to… a big relief).

3. and… well… that’s it for now… once my audio starts working, and I start listening to some soothing/relaxing music… I’ll be able to identify a few more positives… I hope.

Below is a screenshot of my gnome version… I know it’s not pretty, but what to do. Gnome-linux is better than no linux.


Why Google Docs will not work (Not yet at least) July 30, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Google, Internet, OpenOffice, OpenSUSE, Reviews, Screenshots, Working with Linux.
Tags: ,

I was just working on Google Docs… actually let me be more specific. I had one file which I was working on through many years and on many computers. I decided that I would finally take the plunge and make it into one integrated web-based document that I could access anywhere that is internet-connected. To me, that sounded not only sensible but also time-saving… afterall, web-based integrated collaboration (be it with others or yourself) was surely the way to go (ps. I have done a lot of GoogleDocs stuff before, but this was my first “large” project running across 60 pages).

I started working, putting all the stuff in one place and finally I was ready to format… and then suddenly poof… my GoogleDocs network crashed (the image above gives the error). Interestingly, my internet connection was still active… it was just that GoogleDocs network stopped working… and yes I lost some work.

Thinking I made a mistake I decided to try again… and then again, same problem… and again I lost some work.

I now surmise that perhaps GoogleDocs cannot handle long files… (latest update: Google has a 512KB limit for documents… yes, this is the same Google that gives over 6GB for emails!!!)… though why it showed up as a network error I don’t know.

But it is also another reason why GoogleDocs is not a trustworthy application as a replacement to the wordpressor. But oh, how great it would be, if it was, if it truly was.

I think what GoogleDocs (online word-processors) need to succeed:

1. Network dependability (not a guarantee in developing worlds) so this is not Google’s fault, but perhaps it would be better to improve real-time saving (save as you type) and also perhaps include a save offline option.

2. Better handling of long (longer) documents.

3. Better handling of complex documents (ie. with footnotes, and table of contents perhaps).

(Yet the above list is more a wishlist… so it’s back to OpenOffice we go. Sigh!)

HOW-TO enable read/write in FAT partition after error (or, an openSUSE Forum review) July 25, 2008

Posted by NAyK in How-To, Linux, OpenSUSE, Recommendation, Reviews, Working with Linux.
Tags: , , , ,

This post has two purposes. One to tell how to fix an error that can occur while using dual boot between Windows and Linux (openSUSE). Also, to give a brief review of the openSUSE forum.

Basically, a few weeks ago, I was suddenly unable to write/delete any file from my Windows FAT share in openSUSE. I use Windows XP Home and openSUSE 11, and was having a generally good time with openSUSE, until this problem occurred. I still work extensively in Windows, and so file-sharing between Linux and Windows is crucial. (ps. on the whole, I don’t try to mess with the NTFS partition unless I have to, so I have set up a FAT partition in Windows to better facilitate file sharing from Linux to Windows)

Anyway, for a while I was able to write to my Windows FAT partition, then suddenly, out of the blue, I could only “read” the FAT partition, but not write to it. This affected even my usb flash drives (though this problem mysteriously went away). I desperately tried everything, looking in the internet, enabling NTFS-3G, tried changing permissions etc… but nothing worked. For a while I used my office server to transfer files, but it was getting irritating.

So I did something I never do, I went to the openSUSE forum to send out an s.o.s. help request post.

Just to show how noobish I really am, I just couldn’t figure out how to enter a NEW post… there was only a <replypost> button but to put a <newpost> I struggled in vain. Ultimately after a long time of frustration I suddenly found a button the sections column for <newpost>. In a sense, while I did feel foolish, I still felt that it should be easier to find where to submit a new post, perhaps also in the side-bar. But that’s just me.

Anyway, thinking mine was a hardware query, I posted my first request for help there entitled Cant write on FAT and NTFS (FAT write stopped working)

I realised that the openSUSE forum was quite active, meaning there were many posts requesting help. But when I started browsing for the new queries of other users, I realised that it was quite easy for my post to just disappear from the latest problem. And I think that’s what happened. for a few days there was no response to my query.

I decided to change my category and write a new post in the applications category of the forum. The new post was entitled: Please help: Can’t write/delete FAT (even with SuperUser)

Interestingly, I found almost immediately responses in my “please help” query (perhaps it does help to have a catchy headline?)… and I must state that the help came from none other some senior members and the global moderator (Swerdna). Wow, that’s big!

Anyway, I was quite impressed by such high-level interest in my small request… and we went about trying to fix the problem… as forums do best… through dialogue. And ultimately… a certain DoctorJohn was helpful in intuiting that there could be a problem in my Windows Partition that stopped me from writing to the partition.

I know it all seems obvious now… but when I was going through the turmoil… it was far from a pleasant obvious experience.

Anyway… for the final solution this is what I did… and here’s the HOW-TO part of the post:
1. I made a backup of my vfat partition.

2. Then in openSUSE I did:

umount /windows/E

2b. which was followed by

fsck.vfat /dev/sda5
(as root using “su”)

3. There seemed to be an error in bootsector of the partition and asked whether I wanted to copy from the original to the backup or back to the original. I tried both, but I wasn’t able to fix anything “no files changed” message came up, saying that there was some error in certain files (it thankfully named the files).

4. I therefore went to Windows and deleted those files. And scheduled a boot-time scandisk.

5. Upon completion of the Windows scandisk I reverted to openSUSE and tried to delete a file from my FAT drive…

6. and yes… IT WORKED!!!

Better still, I went to the NTFS partition through ROOT (ie FileManager Super User) and found that I could even write/delete to/from NTFS files.

Back to my review of the openSUSE forum, incidentally just yesterday I found two replies to my query in the hardware section, again, one of the helps was from a senior member. I found that while the openSUSE forum help may not be immediate, it did seem excellent when the help did arrive.

As for structure, it was a little irritating that the forum has a time-out… and does not remember sessions (ie. you have to keep logging in… but it seems to be a Novell related issue… so no need to bother about that).

Also, the forum is primarily “need help” oriented… at least where I went… and I wonder how the people helping have the time to help everyone… especially since the people helping me were pretty senior people (one of them confessed to help me while typing on his cell-phone!)

Anyway, I must admit that considering this was my first help request in a forum, I was more than satisfied by the result. I did need to be patient (a virtue I don’t always have), but for serious issues I know I’ll head faster to the openSUSE forum in the future.

(ps. it must be said on the record that the problem was actually IN windows and not in openSUSE linux. In fact, I wouldn’t have been aware of the problem unless I was using linux for the FAT partition)

Revised Top 7 extensions (add-ons) for Firefox 3 July 15, 2008

Posted by NAyK in Confessions, Firefox, Linux, Open Source, Recommendation, Reviews, Software, Windows, Working with Linux.
Tags: , ,

After my previous list of Firefox extension (add-ons) favourites, I had to do some soul searching. I wasn’t actually using some of my supposed favourite extensions, but instead was using a few other extensions not on the list. Then came Firefox 3, and a few of my favourite extensions were not supported… out of the window they went, so it seems. So now, here’s my revised favourite Firefox 3 extensions (add-ons) (note that they are not in any particular importance, they are all pretty important to me):

1. Gmail Manager. This is is still one of my favourite extensions for Firefox and I’m glad Firefox 3 supports it. This extension allows me to check my multiple gmail accounts and is actually the first thing I see each day. Priceless!

2. AdBlock Plus. My previous list did not rate this extension highly… but eventually I realised that this was actually a (demi)god-send. It really helps in getting rid of pesky ads, but doesn’t do that good of a job getting rid of flash-based ads. For that you need to go to the configuration and manually block that frame or object. Still, excellent for a better web-experience. Ps. it also helps in making websites more “Safe for Work”.

3. Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer: This is a recent favourite… and after using it, I can’t imagine how I managed without it. Currently, I use four different operating systems on two computers… and so managing bookmarks can become a pain… unless you use Foxmarks. It’s an excellent tool that synchronizes all my bookmarks (including those on the toolbar) and so far I’ve had no complaints using it. Wow.

4. New Tab Homepage: For a while I thought of reverting back to Firefox 2+ just because it was not compatible with TabMix Plus; whose basic function I used was to open my homepage in the new tab. I really think this should be included and enabled by default… but that’s just me! Anyway… I found this small but extremely useful substitute and yes it opens my homepage everytime I open a new tab. Phew!

5. NoScript: This extension was not in my previous favourite list and I was scolded by a commenter for missing it. I still hesitate to put it up in my favourites… not because it is not useful… it certainly is. Yet it is also extremely irritating. There are some sites where you would want to block scripts, that’s true. But this powerful extension blocks the scripts of every single site and you need to manually enable each and every object in each and every site you trust. After a while, it makes you think you’re using Vista or something. Still, it’s saved me from a few viruses in Windows… and certainly reduced my headache in Linux… all in all, I would say, indespensible for security conscious surfers.

6. Flashgot: This is one really helpful extension especially when attached to a good download manager, like Orbit (in Windows). I’ve really enjoyed using this extension and would rate it as indespensible. In Linux, however, Orbit is not supported and somehow the download managers I have used do not fill me with a sense of security. Still, in linux I use DownThemAll… which has worked on a few ocassions… but I would just simply use the default Firefox downloader when I have to. I don’t really download YouTube/Metacafe videos, so I’m not the target audience for these extensions perhaps… but sometimes both extensions, especially Flashgot, are good to identify hidden links.

7. PDF Download: This is an extension that I have found extremely useful for me… though not everyone would want it. It basically allows me to choose how a pdf is treated in Firefox. I like to download my pdfs and then open them… so this adds that basic feature for me. The PDF Download 2.0 Beta (which I have been fortunate to test) is cooler still… and allows more PDF functionality to webpages… but most of those bells-and-whistles are above the needs of the common man. But still… this is a really good extension, and its getting even better.

(Extensions I thought I’d use, but never really did)

Zotero: In concept, it’s great. It helps in developing bibliographies. But actually I make my academic bibliographies through my word processor, so this is just a little out of my natural workflow.

Firefox Showcase: Occassionally I accidently press the Firefox Showcase button and see all my tabs in single view. But somehow I don’t NEED this extension, mostly because I know what my tabs contain. Still, I’m sure its useful (even indespensible) to many out there.

Customize Google: It was becoming a habit for me to install this add-on everytime I installed a new Firefox. But off late I realied that I never actually used the extra search items. The search-bar in Firefox more than adequately allows me to diversify my specific search needs. And most of the time, google is enough. So well… this one is no longer for me.

…so that’s it for now. I must say that because of most of the extensions (add-ons) in this list, I never use IE 7 or Konqueror or Opera… Firefox really does enhance my web experience.