Hari's Corner

Humour, comics, tech, law, software, reviews, essays, articles and HOWTOs intermingled with random philosophy now and then

Post-install process errors and broken packages

Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted on Fri, Feb 9, 2007 at 09:47 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 21:00 IST)

I had a long standing problem which I solved today. For a long time, Python was broken on my system and every time I did an apt-get dist-upgrade there was a problem configuring python-2.4 and python-2.4-minimal as a result of which many applications were left unconfigured by the post-installation process.

I tried several things. At first I tried removing the old python-2.3 packages which were obsolete but remained on the system. It didn't resolve the issue. Then I tried dpkg-reconfigure from the command line. It didn't work either. I looked at the errors thrown up in the command line mode of Synaptic and then found that maybe the package spe was the problem. I removed it and then once again re-installed the python-2.4 and python-2.4-minimal package. This time it configured python correctly and reconfigured all the other broken packages.

Although the problem now appears to be solved, I'm not sure exactly where the problem lay in this instance. However, the tip here is that when there are several broken packages in a Debian installation, the core of the problem might be an underlying library or a base package which didn't get configured properly during an installation or an upgrade. It can be tricky to deal with.

However looking closely at the errors thrown up by the post-installation process in Synaptic or apt-get is definitely a good way to resolve broken packages in Debian. A long-running Debian system tends to get extremely cluttered over multiple dist-upgrades and occasionally you do get these problems. The good thing about Debian is that it's a self-healing system since the post-install process and configuration can be repeated on existing packages as many times as you wish.
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Thavil Vidvaan Senaththur Sethuraman

Filed under: Artwork/Portraits/Caricatures by Hari
Posted on Thu, Feb 8, 2007 at 20:44 IST (last updated: Fri, May 29, 2009 @ 21:24 IST)

My next cartoon character. Thavil Vidvaan, Senaththur Sethuraman.

Thavil Vidvaan

Occupation: Playing the thavil at temple festivals and wedding ceremonies. Teaching thavil to young aspirants. Quote: "Idhu thavil aduchcha kai le! Thotta, thola urichuduven!" Favourite pastime: Chewing tobacco and playing cards under the village banyan tree with his troupe.
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Review of the new Blogger

Filed under: Software and Technology by Hari
Posted on Thu, Feb 8, 2007 at 11:50 IST (last updated: Thu, May 7, 2009 @ 21:07 IST)

I must admit to succumbing to a temptation I've had for a long time. I went ahead and created a Blogger account for a new (experimental for now) Cricket blog, currently titled Forward Point. Since I already had a gmail account, it was just a matter of a single click and my blog was ready.

There are several great features I found in the new Blogger (which is no longer beta). I must admit that it's rich in features and extremely easy to use. Push-button publishing it definitely is. Here are some of the enhancements from the older blogger which wasn't integrated with the google account: Add to all this a huge and active community and you get a complete picture. There's no doubt that google are extremely eager in maintaining their dominance in the blog world and it's fairly easy to see why almost everybody has a blogspot address these days. The user-friendly features may look a bit silly to the technically more proficient users, but they're fun tools to use (particularly the instant template editing) and definitely enhance the blogging experience.

The only downside (as far as I can see) is the lack of a large number of pre-built templates. However, because of the template editing features every blog can be fairly customized with a little effort. Full HTML editing is still available for the more advanced users.

Even though I will continue to hold to my opinion that WordPress is the best blogging platform for the more experienced (in terms of sheer customizability, size of the support community and availability of a huge number of themes and plugins), I think Blogger definitely will remain the most popular blogging tool for the less geeky crowd.
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A strange dream I had this morning

Filed under: Life and Leisure by Hari
Posted on Thu, Feb 8, 2007 at 07:37 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 21:38 IST)

Sudipta recently talked about a subject that's always of interest to people: dreams. So I thought I'd write about one of my strangest dreams, which, surprisingly enough, occurred early this morning.

I usually don't have clear, focussed dreams. Usually the dreams usually disappear in the mists of my sleep or remain blurred and confused. They are also usually nonsensical. But early this morning I had a dream which was not only strangely realistic, it somehow remained sharp in my mind. Maybe illness has a way of focussing the mind. I certainly didn't sleep too well because of my throat infection.

Here's how it went.
I'm in a classroom at college. The lecturer is collecting the homework/assignment from the students. He tears and flings out the notebooks of those who haven't completed the homework and asks them to get out. Strangely enough, I find that my own homework hasn't been completed. Apart from a momentary feeling of dismay, I really don't feel any fear. Rather I'm increasingly irritated by his high-handed behaviour. It culminates when I finally rise up dramatically from my seat, declare that I haven't done my homework and stomp out in a rage, no doubt causing a mild sensation.

I then immediately head to the staff room (set in a strange location: my old school) and then walk in boldly amidst protests from other teachers. In scathing terms I complain about his behaviour in scathing terms to nobody in particular. The teachers look strained and confused. I have the impression that most of them are not even listening to me. However, having established my high moral ground, that scene came to an end.

In the next scene, I'm back for the next class of that lecturer. His attitude has undergone a strange transformation and to my own surprise, I stand up and apologize - not sincerely, but in an absolutely pompous, defiant and self-righteous manner. Strangely he acts most humbly and says that I needn't apologize for anything. He treats me in a most humble manner through the rest of the class. The lesson continues and I sit in class, radiant and filled with a sense of my own importance and an attitude of defiance, yet strangely relieved that I had not got into deep trouble over my behaviour.
This was a dream that actually highlighted two of my characteristics in real life - a strong sense of right and wrong and a rebellious streak. For whatever reason, I felt disturbed in this dream and strongly felt that the lecturer was acting in an unbecoming manner. In my own defiant behaviour, I was exhibiting my real-life rebelliousness.

Surprisingly, this dream is probably a twist of a real-life incident where I acted in a similar defiant manner before one of my lecturers shocking some of my friends. However, be that as it may, I thought it would share it here since it was somewhat realistic and had an underlying theme. Usually dreams disappear into the mists upon waking, but this one (maybe because I had it just before I woke up) stood very clearly etched in my mind.
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When it doesn't work, try 'root' first

Filed under: Bits and Bytes by Hari
Posted on Wed, Feb 7, 2007 at 15:25 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 21:00 IST)

I've decided to store small bits of useful, but random, information that I usually gather from day-to-day experience as "tidbits." This is my first tidbit...

I was recently trying to get my digital camera (Canon Powershot S50) to work in my laptop and was repeatedly frustrated because gphoto2 refused to detect it. In trying to resolve this problem I logged in as root and by chance I issued the gphoto2 --auto-detect command and found that the camera was detected after all! Turned out that it was a permission problem with the /dev/bus/usb/ folder. Adding the plugdev group to my user account resolved the issue which had been perplexing me for a while. While the solution was absurdly simple and the problem sounds so obvious, I spent hours simply scratching my head wondering why my camera stopped working and even went to the extent of changing the USB cable to see if that was the problem.

So the moral of this story is - if something suddenly stops working in Linux (and particularly if you know it works or it had worked before) it might just turn out to be a simple permissions problem. In this particular case, I suspect that a Debian dist-upgrade had broken the permission which prevented me from accessing the camera. I spent hours on this problem groping around in the dark and googling frantically until I accidentally hit upon the solution which was hinted at in a mailing list archive.
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Ideas and inspiration

Filed under: Bits and Bytes by Hari
Posted on Wed, Feb 7, 2007 at 09:29 IST (last updated: Wed, Jul 16, 2008 @ 20:29 IST)

I must confess that after writing a series of articles over a period of time, I usually run dry on ideas. When ideas dry up, it's time to scratch the bottom of the barrel in the hope of finding a worthy subject to blog about. To be honest, I'm now scratching it in the hope of finding some inspiration. But in reality, I find that inspiration, wit or humour cannot be forced. It has to come naturally. When it doesn't, I usually get stuck on the first sentence and keep reworking it over and over again almost mechanically. It happens. The mind just stops controlling the flow of words.

To counter that effect, I've tried to vary the pace of blogging as much as possible. Writing on the same subject over and over again can quickly exhaust my idea-tank and I start fumbling around for topics to cover. Naturally I've expanded the scope of this blog in the past by including more areas to cover. My cartoons are a good example of this change of pace. Drawing relaxes me. So when I do find that writing becomes a chore, I naturally post a cartoon or two. I've also tried to use humour occasionally with mixed success.

On the whole I'm not one of those people who can write volumes and volumes without ever running dry on inspiration. I don't even update this blog regularly. Regular readers would have noticed the slackening of pace frequently. As I've mentioned one of the reasons I decided to stop contributing to third-party websites without adequate compensation is the fact that I've really neglected this blog over a period fo time.

So what's this post in aid of? It's to ask you, the reader, for more ideas. I always want a fresh perspective on issues. Do you think there are any new subjects I should cover? Do you want to see more frequent updates or would you rather wait for a while to see a well-written, meaningful article? Do you prefer lengthier essays or shorter posts? Do post your thoughts and ideas here.
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