Slinging Indian TV

Watching foreign TV channels in the US can get quite expensive. For example, if you sign up for six Indian channels with DirectTV, your cost could be as high as $30 a month. This is over and above what you already pay for programming.

However you can workaround this limitation. It is not easy and requires a bit of investment of your time and money. Enter the Slingbox.

The Slingbox is a hardware device that allows you to placeshift your TV. So in theory given a Slingbox, all you will need to setup to enjoy Indian channels at home would be

  1. An always on high-speed internet connection in India
  2. A Slingbox
  3. A router
  4. A computer capable of playing these streams and displaying them on your TV

In theory this sounds quite nice and rosy, however there are several caveats.

  1. Slingmedia advertises the Slingbox to be NTSC only. They do sell a PAL version, but this is not available in the U.S
  2. The video connectors used in India tend to be quite different.
  3. Setting up the router to forward the port alone might not be sufficient. For instance, at my place the internet connection was supplied through a DSL modem with a firewall built in. There was little or no documentation about setting this up.

Anyway it is possible to overcome all of these problems. I will go into further detail in subsequent posts. If you cannot wait to hear how to set it up for yourself, feel free to contact me, and I will be glad to help

Dell finally gets it

It wasn’t very long ago when buying a computer from Dell meant buying yourself a computer filled with crapware. It would take not less than 2 hours to rid the computer of all the junk it came preinstalled with.

Not only Dell but all computer manufacturers including Sony, HP, Acer (these are the only ones I have bought / got new computers with) are guilty of this crime. In fact the situation was so bad that quite often I used to recommend a clean install of the OS as soon as I opened the box. Unfortunately unless you had your own personal copy of Windows, this was not possible, since these computers did not ship with an OS. Instead they shipped with a restore CD which in turn restored the computer to the same bloated state it was in to begin with.

But with Dell’s market share falling, the company is reinventing itself – and this time for the better. What prompts me to say this. Well lets see …

  • They are now selling computers with Red Hat, SUSE and Ubuntu Linux preinstalled. Yay!
  • They introduced a new line of computers called Vostro today. Why do I like this new product line?

    Dell today announced a new brand “Vostro”of notebooks and desktops built with a focus on professional design, quality and value, shipped with no trialware and customized to meet the unique needs of small businesses worldwide. To complete the small business solution, the company also introduced a new 19-inch widescreen display, color laser printer and mono multifunction laser printer.

    Yes, you read that right. No trialware by default. You do not have to ask for it to be removed. Another score.

So yes, I think Dell is finally getting it. The prices are pretty good too. I configured a Vostro laptop today and I think it is a pretty good configuration for the price(I am not going to buy it though. I am waiting for Leopard :))

Dell Vostro

Vista’s UAC – An exercise in frustation?

From Slashdot

I had probably the most frustrating ten minutes i have ever spent on a computer before.
Start, typed in regedit enter.
Vista:Are you sure you want to run this program?
Me: Yes. I went OUT of my way, hit start, run and typed in the pogram name I wanted. Thanks for checking though. (click) ….
Edit the registry, close it. That was easy. ….
double clicked on setup. Stupid shield on my icon, what does that mean?
Vista: are you sure you want to run this? it’s a program, you know.
Me: Oh that must be what the shield is for. Vista feels like it should protect me from software!
Vista: This is from AMD. Do you trust AMD?
Me: yes, they pay me. I trust them. (click) …..
Install……that was easy. ….
Oops, there’s a problem. Well, let’s grab the correct file from the build server and copy it over …
Open my computer, go to program files ….
Vista: Are you sure you want to go there?
Me:Yes (click) …
open up the application folder ….
drag a file from a network share to the application folder….
Vista: Are you sure you want to overwrite this file?
Me: Yes (click)
Vista:A program wants to write to the Program Files folder. Is this ok?
Me: Yes (click)
Vista:You are trying to copy from a network share to the program files folder. This isn’t allowed. Hit ok.
Me: (Pounds head) (click) ….
Drag to Desktop. ….
Drag from desktop to application folder. …
Are you sure you want to overwrite this file?
me: for the love of god yes
Vista:A program wants to write to the Program Files folder. Is this ok?
Me: Die.Die.Die.Die.

Troubleshooting Beagle on Ubuntu Edgy

If you are running Ubuntu Edgy Eft (6.10), and have installed the latest version of Beagle, you might notice that your computer is running quite hot. This is because of a bug in the version of beagle that is shipped with Edgy. To check if you are suffering from these symptoms, just open a terminal window on Ubuntu, and type the command top. If the process beagled-helper is taking anymore than 2% of your CPU, then you are a victim of this bug (This is of course assuming that you have had Beagle installed and running for a few days, since Beagle might run up to 100% when it indexes your hard drive for the first time).

The fix

1. Add the following line to the list of repositories.
deb ./

2. Using Synaptic (or the installation tool of your choice), upgrade Beagle to the latest version (1.2.16)

3. Kill the beagled-helper daemon. To do this, get the pid for the beagle-helper process using the following command
ps -ef | grep beagled-helper

The output of this should be something like this
1000 29157 25899 0 16:46 pts/0 00:00:00 grep beagled-helper

Now, run the following command (Note: replace 29157 with the appropriate number)
kill -9 29157

That’s it. Beagled will restart and now will stop killing your processor and you can start saving on your energy bills

Hope this helps someone.

Free internet access at T-Mobile hotspots with Windows Vista

It looks like Microsoft is opening all its coffers for the Vista release. T-Mobile and Microsoft have tied up and are providing three months of free internet access at any T-Mobile hotspot. The caveat here is that your laptop needs to run Windows Vista. I wonder how soon someone is going to hack this and get sweet sweet internet access on any OS

Want a free domain name?

Are you on the lookout for a free domain name? If you are then head over to Office Live and sign up for the Live Basics Beta. This beta comes with a free domain name and easy-to-use design tools (at least that’s what Microsoft says). Anyway there are a couple of caveats:

  1. You will need to provide a valid credit card number. This is not charged, and Microsoft promises that the service will remain free. I provided a credit card number and cancelled the credit card soon after
  2. If you plan to customize the website to your liking, I don’t think you want to go this route. I do not think Microsoft allows you to point the domain to another location. So you are pretty much stuck with the tools they provide.
  3. Office Live is an IE only website (what else can we expect from Microsoft!)

All in all it looks like a good deal if you want a spare domain you can call home ;). I got

Code Snippet Hell

Microsoft recently released a bunch of code snippets for C#. These snippets looked quite interesting and I decided to install them. I came across a post on CodingHorror
that indicated an easier way to install these snippets. Being quite adventurous, I decided to give these a whirl. Unfortunately in the process, I mucked up somewhere and ended up installing my snippets from an incorrect location. Now since Visual Studio 2005 is a final product and not a beta, I assumed that I will be able to undo this stupidity (how foolish of me!). So I opened up the snippet manager and tried to remove stuff from there. However this did not work. I cleaned up the registry entries and cleaned up all the folders, but still no luck. I thought reinstalling these snippets the way Microsoft expects me to do might help, but this is what I ended up with

Now I have multiple entries in my snippet browser and no way to delete these entries. This drives me crazy. I tried to fix this by reinstalling Visual Studio, but even that doesn’t fix this. Yes I actually uninstalled Visual Studio fully and reinstalled it, but Visual Studio is kind enough to remember all my snippets. So now I am stuck with a feature that I want to use, but no longer can. Looks like I am not alone.

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My experience with Ubuntu

I recently purchased a new 250 GB hard drive. After several days of procastination, I finally upgraded my desktop ( a dell Dimension 3000) from a measly 40 GB to 250 GB. Now since I had so much space, I decided to dual boot my Windows XP Pro installation with Linux. I have been hearing several good things about Ubuntu, so I decided to give it a shot.

Downloading Ubuntu was quite painless, I used a torrent and was able to download the iso in under an hour. I burned a CD on my Mac (I don’t have a CD burner on my desktop), and booted my desktop from the CD.

Partioning the hard driver was quite painless. I just had to specify that I wanted to use only a small portion of my hard drive and the installer took care of the rest. I think I was presented with a login screen under 15 minutes and after one reboot.
Once I logged in I realized that I was running at a horrible 640 x 480 resolution. A little bit of googling led me to this solution

In terminal type: gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf
In /etc/X11/xorg.conf under the line Option “DPMS” (use the find option) just add:
HorizSync 28-49
VertRefresh 43-72
Save and reboot your system.

This worked like a charm. This fixed the screen resolution. Then came the part I was really scared of, configuring my wireless card. I have had bad experiences in the past with wireless cards and Linux, and I thought that this time would be no exception. I have a D-Link wireless card (AR5212 802.11 abg NIC). Anyway surprise surprise, Ubuntu recognized the card and configured it impeccably. I just had to enter my wireless authentication and I was good to go. However, I would like to point out that the key should be entered in Hexadecimal and not in ASCII, else it does not work. I was impressed.

Next step, my Dell 720 color printer. This printer has been a pain. It works only on Windows and refuses to connect to my powerbook. Anyway a bit of googling, led me to this website. Once I was done with the steps mentioned there, I restarted my computer (maybe logging off would have been enough, but face it, I am coming from Windows. I restart everytime I install a Messenger, so a printer is a HUGE thing). Then I opened the printer utility (System->Administration->Printing). I clicked Add Printer, my printer was shown in the list of detected printers. I selected my printer type as Lexmark, and the printer driver as z600-v1.0. Voila, my printer now works.

Overall I am pretty pleased with the distro. Everything I wanted worked out of the box with minimal work required. Compare this with Windows where I had to install drivers for my video card, sound card, wireless card, ethernet adapter and printer. Now if I did not have another computer this would not have been possible because Dell did not provide me with CD’s for the drivers. I instead had a restore CD which I did not want to use.
I am still trying to get a hang of Gnome. I can install KDE, but then I think I should give Gnome a fair chance. I will try to boot into Windows as less as possible. Next step, installing Mono on Linux. That will be a story for another day.

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Heard of C++0x?

I was quite surprised when I came across an article on C++0x. I thought it was another language much like Microsoft’s F#. Anyway was I mistaken. Quoting from the one and only Stroustrup (emphasis mine)

In this article, I examine the main principle we use to guide the development of C++0x, the next version of the C++ Standard.

C++0x will be almost 100-percent compatible with the existing Standard C++. Your existing code will, with a very high probability, be C++0x conforming if it was compliant with C++98, the existing Standard.

If you are a C++ developer, you really should read the article.

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