La Salle Debain

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Open Source @ Consolidated Braincells Inc.

About La Salle Debain

This is a weblog I'm keeping about my work on Debian and any other useful Debian related info I come across. It is not meant to compete with other news sources like Debian Weekly News or Debian Planet. Mostly it is just a way for me to classify and remember all the random bits of information that I have floating around me. I thought maybe by using a blog it could be of some use to others too. Btw. "I" refers to Jaldhar H. Vyas, Debian developer for over 5 years. If you want to know more about me, my home page is here.

The name? Debain is a very common misspelling of Debian and la salle de bains means bathroom in French.

If you have a comment to make on something you read here, feel free to write to me at

You can get an rss 0.91 feed of any page in the blog by appending ?flav=rss to the end of the URL.

Thu, 21 Oct 2004

Warty Warthog

Ubuntu Linux 4.10 was released yesterday. I installed it and have been playing around with it. The most notable thing about it from my point of view is that as it contains GNOME 2.8, it has good support for Gujarati (thanks to the Utkarsh team.)

Ubuntu Screenshot

As you can see it is not perfect. Some parts are still not translated.and if you look at FireFox, it is mangling jodaksharas pretty badly. This is an upstream problem so I don't blame Ubuntu for it.

Overall I'm impressed with Ubuntu, so much so that I'm considering "sidegrading" my laptop which runs sarge to it. Though The stumbling block is I prefer KDE to GNOME. So I will have to investigate how good KDE support is first.

Why would a Debian developer prefer a derivative over Debian itself? The current Debian release process is utterly dysfunctional and the project has too much inertia to fix it (even if there was a will to do so which there isn't.) It remains to be seen if Ubuntu can actually follow through on its promise to make timely releases but if it can, those of us who don't think of operating systems as ends in themselves will find it most welcome.

posted at: 00:00 | #

Mon, 04 Oct 2004

The Confusion

The last book of Neal Stephensons "Baroque Cycle" trilogy entitled "The System of the World" is coming out soon and I realized I hadn't read the second book yet despite having enjoyed the first volume "Quicksilver" immensely. So last week I borrowed "The Confusion" from the New York Public Library. Although it's been out for a while for some reason this book was still on the one week book express shelf. And weighing in at 800 pages, that's a lot to read in one week. I managed it but I really will have to read it again sometime as I'm sure I missed some bits.The plot is as densely packed as in Quicksilver.

I'm going to try not to spoil the plot for those who haven't read it yet but I must mention "Half-cocked" Jack Shaftoe, who at the end of Quicksilver was raving mad from syphilis and bound for North Africa as a galley slave, turns up sane in Algiers. (The pox having been purged from him by the desert sun.) He and some of his fellow slaves concoct a daring escape plan which eventually takes them around the world with many ups and downs along the way.

In 1693, one of the places Jack ends up in is Gujarat brought there by one of his companions named Surendranath. That detail rang a little hollow as Surendranath is not a typical Gujarati Vania name. We find him in Ahmedabad which Stephenson notes was also named by some Guerdabad -- the place of dust. Today it is one of the most polluted cities in India. He is a living insect trap at an hospital run by Brahmanas for the relief of sick animals. There's another mistake. Those hospitals (They still exist.) are run by Jains.

He travels to Div which was then a Portugese colony passing en route through my ancestral land of Kathiawad. (Stephenson spells it Kathiawar. Actually in Gujarati it is a retroflex sound somewhat like saying r and d together with a little l mixed in.) This period, the last days of the Mughal empire, were something of a golden age for the area. Trade with European outposts (Div and Daman were Portugese. Surat which was a bit further away was English.) was making a lot of people rich and there was peace and plenty in the land.

All this would change a generation later when the Mahrattas would begin dismantling the Mughal empire and setting up their own which alas failed to achieve an equivalent amount of stability. It was that time when the founder of my family Kai. Shri Jagannath Vyas was staying in the house of a minor chief on his way back from performing some religious ceremony and was murdered for the gold he was carrying. Eventually it got so bad that the British East India Company which hitherto was only interested in making money behind the scenes began taking over the functions of government thereby beginning the British Raj. Though interestingly Kathiawad was never officially part of British India. Up until 1947, it was in the hands of some 202 local kings (well that's a kind way to call them. The Gujarati term rajvi or "princeling" more accurately describes the situation.) Of course there were British "advisors" at each court to ensure they didn't get out of line but atleast nominally they were independent.

Of course there is a lot more to the book than this. Stephenson again provides many fascinating glimpses into the trends that began the modern world like how the English and the Dutch overtook the French as world powers by moving to a cash-based economy. And he drops a few amusing anachronisms here and there. (Somehow I don't think synergy is a 17th century Armenian word do you?) There's sex, treachery, revenge, and reunions. All in all it was a really good read and I look forward to the concluding volume.

Now I have one week to read "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell" by Susanna Clarke. It's another "England is secretly full of wizards" type book. I've heard it being described as Harry Potter for grownups.

posted at: 18:20 | #