Monday, April 27, 2009

Top 10 MCU Vendors 2008


It is sad to see that quite some of them are struggling. Renesas and NEC Electronics are struggling and may combine force. Freescale and NXP are also not in good shape. Atmel and Infineon are not really much better either.

Here are some articles from EETIMES.
NEC Electronics, Renesas target next April for merger
Can Freescale beat the odds?
Will KKR inject more funds into NXP?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

LXDE under Ubuntu 9.04

LXDE is a light weight desktop environment. It is not as full-feature as XFCE and some say it is just a bunch of program around Openbox and PCManfm. But actually there are more and more programs for LXDE and I think it has its place for light weight desktop environment.

LXDE under Ubuntu 9.04 is really very fast. If you are a minimalist and tired of Gnome and KDE and if even XFCE is too big for you, LXDE is worth a try. Apparently Ubuntu 9.04 does not come with the latest XFCE stuffs compared to XFCE's Sourceforge site.

Here is the screenshot with Lxlauncher which you may find similar things with some netbooks.

Xubuntu 9.04 First Impression

I already ran XFCE 4.6 in Ubuntu 8.10. So I installed XFCE under Ubuntu 9.04 and it was quite smooth. Personally I am more at home with Gnome but XFCE seems to be quite functional and responsive.

There is a Chinese Live CD distro based on Xubuntu (along with LXDE) : Hiweed Linux. The 2.0RC version is based on Xubuntu 8.10. Maybe
it should instead be based on 9.04. Hiweed added ibus and ibus-pinyin and some other Chinese addons to Xubuntu.


Kubuntu 9.04 First Impression

I had not found any really good impressions about KDE for Ubuntu (or Kubuntu) ever since I used 5.04. I have better impressions about KDE since running KDE 4.2.2 under Ubuntu 8.10. But the startup time and logout time are both a bit slow there.

Apparently Kubuntu 9.04 is better. It is noticeably faster than KDE 4.2 under Ubuntu 8.10 and Fedora 10 during login/logout and normal operation. So that is a big positive. KDE 4.2 is really quite sleek and beautiful compared to plain Gnome although the smoothness is still not as good as Gnome.

Initially I got no sound when playing MP3, similar to what I met when I installed Arch Linux the first time. The log-in/log-out sound are there. The mixer shows the correct device, just got no sound from other applications. By comparison, Gnome just works without any issues with 9.04, as always even since 5.04 (ok I admit I had some problems with 5.10 initially last time). I had to use Mixer of Gnome to "kick-start" the sound. I got sound but Dragon player still does not work. KDE told me this during after startup that"Notification from Phonon: The audio playback device HDA Nvidia (ALC1200 Analog) does not work. Falling back to default." I checked back the 8.10 installation and actually the problem with Dragon Player was there already.

Overall KDE4.2.2 under Kubuntu 9.04 is actually quite good even though there are occasional stability problem here and there. I will run KDE session more often than last time. Hopefully KDE 4.3 will be even better.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ubuntu 9.04 First Impression

Ubuntu 9.04 has just been released. I tested the live session and I was happy with it. So I decided to install it to the harddisk. The installation was very smooth on my Acer M1641 desktop, just like the 8.10 version. The only thing I needed to do was to use the Nvidia proprietary driver instead of the open-source Xorg driver in order to get the full resolution since the open source driver does not support my NForce620i/GeForce7100 well enough.

The first improvement is that the bootup time is quite fast. The second thing is that desktop effects are automatically enabled. Since I do not normally use compiz-fusion, I disabled it.

Then I installed various packages I use (cvs, svn, git, various development related packages, hmm, I am not a developer but I need them to build the packages) and thanks to the fast mirror in Singapore and my 8MB cable modem connection, the process was painless.

I was having problem accessing a share folder from the other XP notebook with my Ubuntu 8.10 installation. 9.04 has no problems accessing that. Unfortunately I still had some performance problem when copying big file under Gnome from the XP share. I had the same problem with my Arch installation. It is about 2-2.2MB/sec. I was getting about 7MB/sec with Fedora 10 under Gnome. This is something to solve later.

Updated on 26-April-2009: Problem Solved. It turns out that the XP notebook has both wireless and wired connection. Taking out the wireless connection and I have now 8.8MB/sec under Gnome and 8.2MB/sec under KDE for Ubuntu 9.04.

Overall the first impression is positive even though there are not really much excitement to mention about. I did notice the new notify-osd feature but I am already running it under Ubuntu 8.10. Running Gnome with Ubuntu is always smooth for me. I have used Ubuntu since 5.04 (April 2005). So far my experiences with Gnome under Ubuntu is quite good.

On the hardware side, the only device not supported is my old analog PCI TV card Compro Videomate X50. It is not supported by v4l (Video for Linux). Anyway, I seldom use it (it works under Vista). But still I decided to blacklist it to shorten the log message.

As for the bundled packages, one of the missing package is ibus-pinyin. Without it, it is not so useful for me to input Chinese. Anyway the version bundled is also an old version, so I will build from the source directly. I like ibus better than scim.

For people who want to use PIC or AVR development, Ubuntu has the packages like gputils/sdcc/piklab and avr-gcc/avrdude. But in general, Ubuntu's built-in version are all a bit too old. So it is better to get the latest released version or even the latest version from cvs/svn/git.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

KDE 4.2.2 Update for Fedora

Today I got the latest updates for Fedora for KDE 4.2.2 (was 4.2.1) and it solved my problem with console-helper. Originally, running "yumex" or other programs which need root privileges will hang during start up. I was using "kdesu" to run "yumex" but it would not exit properly. This makes me feel better. But KDE 4.2.2 under Fedora 10 is still relatively slow compared to Arch.

Monday, April 20, 2009

KDE 4.2 under Arch Linux

After some good impressions with the new Arch Linux installation (with LXDE and XFCE and also Gnome), I decided to give KDE 4.2 a try on Arch Linux. The installation with pacman is easy. The result seems to be better than both Fedora 10 and Ubuntu 8.10.

Now I have a problem with KDE 4.2 under Fedora 10 that console-helper will hang during startup with a dialogbox titled "Query" when I tried to run programs like yumex or other programs which require root access. Logout under Fedora 10 is also very slow compared to others. KDE 4.2 under Ubuntu seems to be a bit more smooth but the login/logout are both a bit slow compared to Gnome.

KDE under Arch seems to better. The logout process is faster than both Fedora 10 and Ubuntu 8.10. Still various program will still come out many warning messages. This is across thee distributions I tried KDE 4.2. So it seems to me KDE 4.2 is not ready for prime time yet. But it is promissing. I did not like KDE 4.1 under Ubuntu 8.10 at all. Nor did I like previous KDE 3.x under Ubuntu. Now KDE 4.2 at least gives me some incentives to try out KDE again after using Gnome since I re-discovered Linux back in 2005 with Ubuntu 5.04. Before that I tried various Linux distros (Slackware, Redhat, Mandrake, Caldera, Corel, etc) on-and-off from 1998 to 2002.

Friday, April 17, 2009

PICkit 2 under Arch Linux with pk2cmd

Now that Microchip released pk2cmd source codes for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, things become very easy to get PICkit 2 to work under Linux. I just tried it under Arch Linux and it works very well.

Source code download: (now it is of version V1.20)

It is recommended that you build the binary by yourself since the released binary may not work for certain Linux distributions. You need to have gcc and libusb installed to build the source. Just type "make linux" and you will get the binary. For me I prefer to copy pk2cmd and PK2DeviceFile.dat to my ~/bin directory. You can also put them to places like /usr/local/bin.

In order to run pk2cmd as normal user, then you need to write the udev rules as following. You can use the following page. I've added the section for Arch Linux.

[mcuee@myhost rules.d]$ cd
[mcuee@myhost ~]$ cat /etc/udev/rules.d/26-microchip.rules
#PICKit 1
ATTR{idVendor}=="04d8", ATTR{idProduct}=="0032", OWNER:="root", GROUP:="microchip",MODE:="0660"
#PICKit 2
ATTR{idVendor}=="04d8", ATTR{idProduct}=="0033", OWNER:="root", GROUP:="microchip",MODE:="0660"
ATTR{idVendor}=="04d8", ATTR{idProduct}=="8000", OWNER:="root", GROUP:="microchip",MODE:="0660"
ATTR{idVendor}=="04d8", ATTR{idProduct}=="8001", OWNER:="root", GROUP:="microchip",MODE:="0660"
#PICDEM FS USB Bootloader
ATTR{idVendor}=="04d8", ATTR{idProduct}=="000b", OWNER:="root", GROUP:="microchip",MODE:="0660"

[mcuee@myhost ~]$ groups mcuee
lp wheel network video audio optical storage hal camera fuse microchip users

[mcuee@myhost ~]$ pk2cmd -PPIC16F690 -I
Device ID = 1400
Revision = 0003
Device Name = PIC16F690

Operation Succeeded

IE 8.0, Compatibility Worse Than Firefox?

I've been using IE8 under Windows Vista for a while and until recently I have not seen any major compatibility issues with websites other than Sourceforge. There are warnings from Sourceforge that it is better to upgraded to newer version of IE or Firefox. But my version of IE 8 is the latest.

Today, I happened to read Linux Today and it has a link to Earthweb (part of and IE8 is the only browser which has problem with it. Firefox 3.08 is happy. Google Chrome is happy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

EIOffice 2009 Personal Chinese Version is free

The English version is listed at US$29.95 (US$14.95 if upgrading from other vendors).

If you can understand Chinese like I do, the Chinese version is actually free.

It is based on Java but it is really very fast under Linux, much faster than OpenOffice. The compability with Office 2007 under Linux does not seems as good as OpenOffice. But it is said that the Windows version is actually quite good and they are fixing some bugs with the Linux version to catch up with the Windows version.

Take note you need to install unzip for the installer under Linux.

Singapore GDP to fall by 6 to 9 per cent for year 2009

"The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said gross domestic product (GDP) would fall by 6.0 to 9.0 per cent this year, a stunning downgrade from the previous official estimate of a decline of 2.0 to 5.0 per cent". This is quite bad. Hopefully things will get better in the 4th quarter.

Singapore retrench blog tracks the retrenchment activities in Singapore and it paints quite a bleak situation as well.

Arch Linux Revisited

I tried to use Arch Linux back in 2007 (0.8 through 2007.08). Somehow I did not use it often and then a system update (pacman -Syu) would ask for large amount of updates and the mirror is not that fast (no Singapore mirror). So I did not tried it with the current Acer desktop.

I am trying out some small installations using LXDE and XFCE (4.60 was just out). I tried them on a minimum Ubuntu 8.10 installation and it did not work well even though they
both work fine with a normal Ubuntu 8.10 installation. It is said that minimum Arch installation works fine with LXDE and XFCE. So I decided to revisit Arch Linux.

The basic Arch installation using the USB flash disk image is quite fast. Basic setup is fine with editing a few configuration files with nano. The beginner's guide and other Arch Wiki pages are really helpful.

After the initial setup, I got LXDE and XFCE basically working. Still I got no sound. Then I decided to try out Gnome first to see if I am missing something and used Shaman. Shaman is far away from the smoothness of Synaptic used in Ubuntu. I think it has a long way to go. Gnome is basically working as well. But still I got no sound.

Then I installed pulseaudio to help to solve the sound problem. Unfortunate it is broken: libcap updates broke pulseaudio.

Rebuilding pulseaudio with the fantastic ABS system does not help with the sound issue as well. The device is listed, the mixer is fine, there is just no sound from any applications. I like the abs system, kind of like the FreeBSD ports system. It is actually quite easy to rebuild a package.

Turns out it is because of the old TV card (Compro Videomate X50) which is not working under Linux (but fine under Windows Vista) . After disable the loading of that module (cx88xx), the sound is working. Take note I do not need to do this in Ubuntu or Fedora. This is strange.

iBus was not working initially. With the help of Google, it turns out that I need to update ~/.profile instead of ~/.bashrc with ibus settings. This is another strange thing.
export GTK_IM_MODULE=ibus
export XMODIFIERS=@im=ibus
export QT_IM_MODULE=ibus

I am happy with Arch after these initial problems. Arch Linux seems to be faster in Gnome, LXDE and XFCE than under Ubuntu 8.10. Maybe it is less polluted now since less pplications have been installed. The next step may be to remove major part of Gnome and see if I can survive under XFCE and LXDE.

So Arch Linux is more difficult than Ubuntu (which normally just works). But it does have some advantages since I learned quite a bit with the settings. LXDE may be similar.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

XFCE 4.60 for Ubuntu 8.10 and 8.04

This works nicely for me. I was originally trying to use the binary installed but it asked for too many dependencies (development packages).

XFCE 4.60 seems to be much nicer than the previous 4.4.x series which comes with Ubuntu 8.10 and 8.04.

On the other hand, I am also trying LXDE, LXDE seems to be much liter than XFCE and quite functional as well.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Nice tips from Ubuntu-Snippets Blog

Nice tips:
1) Print to PDF:


There are quite some good tips from this blog. So I will follow it.

Notify-OSD in Ubuntu and Fedora

Notify-OSD ( is a nice new feature of the up-coming Ubuntu 9.04.

Launchpad site:

Installation instruction for Ubuntu 8.10. Both are okay for me under Ubuntu 8.10.
1. From Alex Rybicki:
2. From Softpedia:

I also tried it under Fedora 10 (Gnome and KDE) and it seems to work there as well. There is a bug report for Fedora and hopefully it will get solved soon.

I think ease of use is an important feature if Linux wants to get the heart of more users. Features like this are really good to see in Linux distros.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Compiz-fusion under Fedora 10 with Nvidia driver

I was having problems with compiz-fusion under Fedora 10 using the Nvidia 180.19 driver. However compiz-fusion works right out of the box under Ubuntu 8.10 with the restricted driver (177.82) provided by Ubuntu. Even though I do not really care about compiz-fusion effects (usually I tested it and then turned it off), I'd like to troubleshoot the problem.

compiz-check reveals the problem.

$ ./compiz-check
Gathering information about your system...

Distribution: Fedora release 10 (Cambridge)
Desktop environment: KDE4
Graphics chip: nVidia Corporation GeForce 7100 / nForce 620i (rev a2)
Driver in use: nvidia
Rendering method: Nvidia

Checking if it's possible to run Compiz on your system...

Checking for texture_from_pixmap... [FAIL]
Checking for non power of two support... [FAIL]
Checking for composite extension... [ OK ]
Checking for FBConfig... [ OK ]
Checking for hardware/setup problems... [SKIP]

At least one check had to be skipped:
Error: Unable to detect maximum 3D texture size

This should not happen. Maybe the driver installation was messed up during kernel updates and rebuilding the kernel modules or installation of other files, so I re-installed the Nvidia driver and viola it works now.

$ ./compiz-check

Gathering information about your system...

Distribution: Fedora release 10 (Cambridge)
Desktop environment: KDE4
Graphics chip: nVidia Corporation GeForce 7100 / nForce 620i (rev a2)
Driver in use: nvidia
Rendering method: Nvidia

Checking if it's possible to run Compiz on your system...

Checking for texture_from_pixmap... [ OK ]
Checking for non power of two support... [ OK ]
Checking for composite extension... [ OK ]
Checking for FBConfig... [ OK ]
Checking for hardware/setup problems... [ OK ]

Ubuntu 8.04: $home/.dmrc file is being ignored

Recently I got this annoying message under Ubuntu 8.04 in the login screen.

Just error message pop-up suggested to "chmod 644 ~/.dmrc" but that does not work. Google shows that others are having the same problem and the solution is the following. This is quite strange.

chmod 700 /home/
chmod 644 /home//.dmrc

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 installation problem on Windows Vista

Today I met one problem when trying to install Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 under Vista SP1 32bit. Luckily Google told me the answer again.

We need to slipstream .NET 1.1 SP1 into .NET Framework setup package to have a integrated .NET Framework 1.1 SP1 installer.

From the link:

1. Create a new folder named DotNet in C:\ drive (C:\DotNet is used in this guide, you can change to any folder you prefer, but ensure that you use correct path in the following steps).

2. Download Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 Redistributable Package (dotnetfx.exe). Make sure the setup file is saved as dotnetfx.exe.

3. Download Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 Service Pack 1 (NDP1.1sp1-KB867460-X86.exe). Make sure that the file is renamed and saved as dotnetfxsp1.exe, so that the rest of the steps can be followed easily.

4. Move both installation files into the same directory (i.e. C:\DotNet), if you’re not saving them together.

5. Open command prompt as Administrator.

6. Change to the directory where the two installation setup files for .NET 1.1 are saved (i.e. C:\DotNet).

7. Run the following commands one by one, press Enter after each one.
* dotnetfx.exe /c:"msiexec.exe /a netfx.msi TARGETDIR=C:\DotNet"

* dotnetfxsp1.exe /Xp:C:\DotNet\netfxsp.msp

No status message for this step.
* msiexec.exe /a c:\DotNet\netfx.msi /p c:\DotNet\netfxsp.msp
Wait for Windows Installer for Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 to finish and disappear automatically.

8. Install Microsoft .Net Framework 1.1 with slipstreamed/integrated Service Pack 1 by running netfx.msi created in the working folder.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Samsung SCX-4200 with open source Splix Driver

Today I tried to use the open source driver with the SCX-4200
under Fedora 10 and it works! Nice. I do not need to use the
closed driver from Samsung.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fedora 10 First Impression with KDE 4.2

I briefly ran Fedora 9 on my last desktop for three month and it was okay. Then it died and I got the new Acer M1641 desktop and was only running Ubuntu (8.04 and 8.10) along with Windows Vista.

I do not quite like the KDE 4.1 under Ubuntu 8.10 and I saw that Fedora 10 comes with KDE 4.2 now. So I decided to give it a try last week. I happened to find a book in the library with Fedora 10 KDE live CD and DVD inside so this saved me sometime to download the CD or DVD.

The first issue was that the Live CD could not go to X. So I had to use the DVD. It does not boot X either but at least the txt mode worked. This is worse than the Ubuntu 8.10. I had to install the Nvidia driver to get into X. Under Ubuntu 8.10, I can go into X with VESA. Then I just enabled the restricted driver to get me the optimum resolution under Ubuntu.

Once I had the X working I did a full system upgrade using yum.

After that using rpmfusion I installed various program for multimedia. The following guide helps.

Still I find one annoying thing is the new PackageKit. I was hit by the following bug.

After solving the problem following the solution in the thread, I decided to remove PackageKit related things altogether and use yumex instead. Now I need to manage the updates by myself but at least it is better to be constantly annoyed by the background packagekit process (often you are told that the database is locked by another process when you want to use yum or yumex).

Another bug I met is that switching to Chinese and KDE would hang during log-in process. Later it was solved after some updates.

With the initial bumpy process, now I can enjoying learning to use KDE 4.2 under Fedora 10. I admit I have not used KDE for quite some time. And KDE experiences for me under Ubuntu was not that positive.

Under KDE 4.2, I was not even able to move the button on the panel initially. After switching to "Folder View" and traditional menu, now I feel better with KDE 4.2. There are smb network share related problems with media playing using Mplayer or other players (they tend to copy the whole file before playing under KDE, no problem under Gnome). The suggested solution seems to mount the smb share locally but I do not quite like the solution. Finally it seems VLC works fine with KDE.

All in all, Fedora 10 is not as smooth as Ubuntu 8.10 during the initial stage. But passing that stage, now it runs rather well (both Gnome or KDE). I also tried LXDE and XFCE and both run well. KDE 4.2 now looks fine to me. I still need to learn some new tricks though.

One thing I like Fedora than Ubuntu is the updating policy. Fedora gives you major updates (like KDE 4.2 or the kernel) during the support period but Ubuntu will keep the same old version in the life cycle.