Sunday, October 4, 2009

New laptop for me :D

I have ordered a new Dell vostro 1520. Expected delivery - 7th Oct 2009. (This up-coming wednesday)

Their customization idea is good, and I spent a lot of time to pick a configuration that would work well on linux. I also chose an n-series one, which means it has freedos, and no other preinstalled OS. I don't have to pay for any preinstalled w*dows that I am never going to touch anyway. Linux... oh! here I come to install you with open arms. ( I am also thinking about bsd. When there are good options, one must use them. It is foolish to not even look at / try the other options ever simply because one is good enough.)

My key requirement was hardware with full specs openly released so that perfect opensource (free) linux drivers could be written.
Graphics card: So I chose the Intel 4500mhd graphics card instead of an ATI or NVIDIA. This is good enough for me. Why it can run compiz, and render all those simulators like torcs and flightgear very well. I think it could render most linux 3D games quite very well. What if it cannot run the bleeding edge w**dows games - I am never going to run them or the w**dows OS even.)

Wireless lan card: The default option was a 'dell wireless' card (which I suspect uses the dreaded-linux-incompatible closed-specs (that's what I heard, I may be wrong) broadcom chips). So I chose an Intel 5100 a/g/n wireless card which was actually cheaper by a few hundred rupees.

I heard Intel releases all its specs and Intel hardware usually have fully working open source linux drivers. Including their graphics cards. So this is good news for me and helps in choosing among options.

It also has an LED backlight for the screen, good for ecology (power saving and battery runtime). It is a 15.4 inch screen. The resolution is 1280x800. I guess I can live with it. I need a tall screen for viewing code and manuals and pages. But I can manage with this resolution I think. 1280x800 is actually a widescreen (16:10 ratio) not a 'tallscreen'.
But on the other hand a widescreen may actually have the advantage that you can put your code on one half and docs on the other.


What distro of linux:
Well this is a another huge time consuming question. At first, my choice was linux from scratch (LFS). But after realizing that I also had to complete my PhD, I settled for something in between. Gentoo.
I can still compile everything from code. Not that much time needs to be spent compared to LFS.
I can still customize everything to a great depth and extent. So for now, gentoo it is. I am in the process of looking through the webpages about gentoo right now.

Why all this effort:
A personal computer is another whole new place, another dimension where I can live. So I need to get it just right to my taste. I should not cripple my freedom and creativity, which is why I love things like free(dom) software and GNU stuff.

Aquaponics, vermicompost, roof plants update

Note that now I stay at the hostel in the IISc campus. I come home on weekends.

* My aquaponic system:
My aquaponic system is ... well, the transformer of the pump controller is damaged (seems to be due to heat or something).
Now the plants in the tubs are not watered by the fish-water now.
Only the muck collected all these years and rain water (this is the monsoon season now) has kept them green. Including a rice plant which has several rice grains ! This is just one plant from one rice grain that I found in the sack of rice we eat at home. This rice grain was one of the few in the whole sack whose husk was still on it.
From one plant from one rice grain, I have got several (30 to 50?) rice grains on the plant!! What a scale of reproduction!

And the fish - I can't feed them properly as I stay in the IISc campus on weekdays. But they seem very fit (I am not a fish doctor - they just looked fit to me). I have prepared a small, new batch of fish feed (from chickpea flour, ragiflour and curd (yogurt) made into a paste, solidified on a hot dosa plate and cut into small squares. I have put this in the freezer. I shall instruct my parents to feed the fish with this for now, from the IISc campus, through phone during weekdays.

I plan to repair my homemade pump controller in the near future.

* Vermicompost
Yay the worms are doing very well. My mother is religiously collecting bio-degradable kitchen waste garbage in a bucket, and I dump this into the bucket with vermicompost and worms when I come home for the weekend. Vermicomposting is really low maintanance! Its working very well with a little commonsense knowledge from past experience and the internet's vermicomposting websites, and very little work on my side.

* Roof plants
On the roof of my house I have a small patch of soil, the size of a floor mat (common indian floor mat size). It is only a few inches thick. I am a strong believer of liquid gold used in a sensible, safe hygenic manner. I also have tried to innoculate the soil with as much biodiversity as possible. I have added to the soil, a little vermicompost diluted with a lot of water, some water from my aquaponic system, lots of cowdung from the areas around my house. (The cows/buffaloes are grass fed - this is like a village type of area in Bangalore.)

So now the roof actually has 8+ corn plants! They are now having some corn like things on the tops of the stalks, I have to wait and see what they mature into.
I dislike buying seeds from a seed 'manufacturer'. I believe plants have been there long before our industrialized seed 'manufacturing'. They can surely grow and reproduce on the own, if we only let them!
The corn seeds I used were actually ones from a half kilogram batch bought for eating purposes.

I also have on the roof, chickpea plants which have already produced chickpeas long ago. Some corriander that bolted, but I'll let the seeds from the bolted plants fall and reseed themselves! I like 'natural'. Our job is easier if we only have to assist nature, not control it. (We can control it after we have understood it, right now we have understood very little about all the bacteria and interactions in natural biodiversity and how plants exactly work.)

I also have two tomato plants that have come up on their own. (Some tomato pulp must have probably, accidentally fallen on the soil). They are producing tomatoes.

I have also planted lots of potato plants from the separted eyes of a few potatoes. They are also quite big plants now. Haven't dug up to see if there are any potatoes but I don't care. Let them grow all they want. If they dry up, the new potatoes under the soil will produce new plants. A stage will reach when I can just dig and find atleast a few potatoes anytime I want.

All this has managed to sustain itself on the monsoon rains and maybe my mother's occasional watering. I come home only on weekends, remember?