posts from the life professional


January 2009

CLSA’s new FengShui Index for the year of the Ox

In just 2 days time, it will be the first day of the new Chinese Year, the year of the Earth Ox.

If you’ve found yourself amused, confused or both by the crisis of confidence that’s ravaged equities, commodities and property values, and have given up hope in the advice of financial analysts armed with their MBAs, Charts and Spreadsheets, you owe it to yourself to read the latest in the FengShui Index series published by CLSA.

It’s available from the CLSA website, but be warned – you need Internet Explorer to download the PDF of the Index.  (more on this later)

The CLSA website is at

If you visit the page soon enough, you’ll find the download link on the bottom left.

Here’s an exerpt from the early part of the PDF:

Well, despite it shaping up as a Cow of a year, the index shows there’s no cause for udder despair.  Admittedly, we’ll all have to plough hard for our pennies during this Year of the Brown Cow (‘brown’ because of the prevailing earth element and ‘cow’, rather than bull or ox, because of the yin, or female, influence this cycle). However, there’ll be some terrific money-making opportunities for the sage and the swift.

The BBC recently ran a story in their business section on the release of the index that gives a nice summary that you can start with, if you’re too busy with spring cleaning, cooking up the reunion dinner or hopping from one relative’s home to another.  But get to the actual CLSA document eventually – it’s definitely worth a read.

Now, on to the Web aspect of this story.

I mentioned earlier that one requires IE to get the PDF.  After clicking the download link on the main page, one is lead to another page with a legal/disclaimer statement that one must accept by clicking into a checkbox.  Only after clicking in does a “Yes I accept” button become un-greyed and clickable.

With IE, this works well.

With Firefox, my default choice of web browser, clicking on the checkbox does not make the “Yes I accept” button clickable.

With Chrome, clicking on the checkbox makes the “Yes I accept” button clickable, but after clicking it and waiting a while, you get an error saying that there’s a problem opening the page.

The difficulty with Firefox and Chrome is odd because doing a “view source” on the page shows that it’s just javascript calls.

with Firefox in Linux (Ubuntu 8.1), I get the same result as Firefox on Windows.  The other browser that’s installed by default in my Ubuntu setup is Epiphany, which like Firefox is gecko powered.  

With Safari on a Mac, the checkbox and download button work well.  Firefox on the Mac has the exact same problem as Firefox on Windows and Linux.  

There’s a pretty good chance that most of the people accessing the FengShui Index from CLSA’s website are using IE so CLSA’s download metrics won’t suffer from their Firefox/Windows and Chrome incompatibility.  But one wonders how the web guys could have let the page go up without at least getting it to work on Firefox.

Ubuntu 8.1 on my hp mininote 2133 – Part 2 – Video

In this post:

  1. A BIOS upgrade from F.03 to F.05 prevents the GUI from starting up
  2. Getting the Via drivers in, and Compiz to run

I helped a friend install apps into her Vista 2133 this morning, and noted that her system was at BIOS level F.05.  My machine, being older, was F.03.  I downloaded the update file from, burned the ISO to a CD, and booted from the CD to perform the update.  The update went very well, but succeeded in killing X – the system kept getting stuck with a black screen and a single cursor right at the point where startX was supposed to happen.  I found this post by user luvit on which suggested that the 05 bios required the use of the latest via driver.  Fortunately, his post had a link to the F.04 bios iso, and downgrading the BIOS enabled me to start up Intrepid and log in successfully.

The next step was to install the Dec2 Via drivers – an attractive thought because this version was supposed to run Compiz.  Again, a post by user luvit on the Ubuntu forums came to my aid with instructions on installing the Via drivers and the link to download the files.  These are the steps from the Via driver readme file:

 How to Install/Uninstall the via Linux Driver
   1.1 uncompress the via driver package
	tar zxvf ./
   1.2  Install the via linux driver
	cd   ./
	sudo ./vinstall
        Reboot system

I used the xorg.conf file linked to the post, but still needed a few more steps to make it work well (I’ll spare you the errors and odd video behavior I kept bumping into)

Because I had accepted an update (bringing the kernel up to 27-9), the Via install script was incorrect, and the following steps had to be performed manually to fix it.  Instructions for this came from a post by JeeBee on hp2133:

  1. cd /lib/modules/2.6.27-9-generic/kernel/ubuntu/via_chrome9/
  2. ls -l
  3. sudo mv via_chrome9.ko via_chrome9.ko.fails
  4. sudo mv via_chrome9.ko.viabak via_chrome9.ko
  5. Reboot

Once the Via drivers were installed, I upgraded the bios again to F.05, and this time, Ubuntu had no trouble loading the GUI.

Now to get Compiz working.  The next step is to add “via” to the whitelist in the /usr/bin/compiz file, per the instructions in the Notes section of the via driver package readme.txt

Then, replace the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file with the contents of the example in this page, from the Ubuntu Wiki (see section for xorg.conf for 3D)

Start up Add/Remove programs, and type compiz in the search box.  Select “Advanced Desktop Effects Settings” and install.


Right click an empty portion of the desktop and select “Change Desktop Background”.  Click on the “Visual Effects” tab, and select the “Extra” option.

After that, you can go to System>Preferences>CompizConfig Settings Manager and configure it as you please.

A page that I found very helpful in configuring Compiz is this post from the Xubuntu Blog.

It’s been a lot of trial and error and looking up lots of forum and blog posts, but it’s all very nicely working now.  I have the many contributors of the posts I’ve linked to above to thank for this.

I use VLC for playing video, and I notice that if I skip the slider ahead, the video window is black until I shift the window a little.  Not a problem for me, and something I’d gladly exchange for the eye candy compiz brings.

Have not yet tried getting the webcam to work with Skype – that’s next on my to-do list.  But first, a full backup is in order, just in case.

>>Part 1 (setup)
>>Part 3 (audio tips)
>>Photos here and here

Ubuntu 8.1 on my hp mininote 2133 – Part 1

Finally got my mininote 2133 2 days ago, and spent a very enjoyable day yesterday getting it just-so.

Since my post on having dual boot Vista/Ubuntu hardy on a compaq tc4400 5 months ago, I’ve had a chance to play with Intrepid on several desktop and notebook PCs (as well as OpenSUSE 11) as part of the school IT lab project I wrote about a few weeks back.  Between 8.04 and 8.1, the installation has gotten so much easier.

Setting up broadcom wireless had been a little tricky in Hardy.  With Intrepid, there’s an alert on the taskbar, with a popup window offering the Broadcom STA wireless driver via a simple ACTIVATE button.  Google Toolbar’s bookmarks installed correctly without the need for installing pre-req packages.

There were two little things on the mininote 2133 specifically that needed special knowledge that was very readily available on the excellent Ubuntu hardware wiki page for this model.

The first was to select the “Safe Graphics Mode” option (press F4 at the opening screen after language selection) before selecting the “Install Ubuntu” option.  Failure to do this resulted in the windowed installation screen being unusable when it appeared.

The second was to modify the default xorg.conf file to provide the proper native resolution (1280 x 768 ) that the mininote’s display required.

I had previously shrunk the Vista partition, and deleted the recovery partition from the harddisk, leaving a very healthy 70G for Ubuntu to use.  In the partitioning options section of the install, I asked Ubuntu to use all the unpartitioned space it could find.

I’ve pretty much set into a routine with Ubuntu installs, and for the hp mininote, it went like this:

  1. Install Ubuntu from CDROM (I had the hp external optical drive)
  2. Connect to LAN (wired) to get and install updates
  3. Accept the Broadcomm wireless proprietary driver, after which I disconnected the lan cable and worked wirelessly
  4. Modify the xorg.conf file and set the correct screen resolution
  5. Turn on subpixel smoothing for a better display (right click desktop, select “Change Desktop Background”, Select FONTS tab, then the subpixel smoothing option.
  6. Install Google Toolbar from Firefox, and set my google ig page as home.
  7. Install VLC (via Add/Remove Programs) and test this with files from my collection of songs and video.  To make VLC the default application for these media types, right click a media file, select properties, click on the “open with” tab, then configure for VLC.
  8. Install OpenOffice 3.0 (using Marius Nestors excellent instructions)
  9. Using the Add/Remove Programs, install Flash, Microsoft Core Fonts, Sun Java 6 runtime and browser plugin.  Test that these work by playing a video on Youtube (tests flash and java) and logging into internet banking sites that requre the Java plugin.
  10. Open Places/Computer, and right click the drive representing the Vista partition.  Select MOUNT, and check that the files in my vista folders can be seen.
  11. Download some nice wallpaer (I chose something from the Watchmen movie site) with Scaled Style, black background (to match the wallpaper), and set the top and bottom taskbars semi transparent so the wallpaper shows through slightly.
  12. The final step was to look for a good cbr/cbz comic viewer, and I settled on comix, which is available in the add/remove programs (synaptic) package manager.  There was an error about needing an unrar module the first time I tried opening a cbr file, but this was fixed by running terminal and executing sudo apt-get install unrar

That’s it!  This is going to be my main Linux machine from now on, and I’ll do my personal work (writing, internet banking, eBook and eComic reading) on this (photo and music work is on the family mac!).  That will free up my reliance on my old tc4400 tablet, so I can upgrade it to Intrepid and finally work to get the tablet features working on that machine.

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve tested startup and shutdown times (fast compared to vista, which I’ve already stripped unessential services and eye candy from to improve performance), and suspend works very well.

The keyboard, which I’ve heard complaints about, is excellent, my only complaint being the loss of the independent Pg UP/DOWN keys.  These keys are available, but require the Function key to be pressed before hand.  This will force me to learn other keyboard shortcuts to navigate webpages, pdfs and comix.  So perhaps it’s a something I can live with.

Battery life seems decent – I ran for an hour off battery this evening, reading a PDF magazine, and still had a half-tank of battery life after that.

Also heard complaints about heat – the bottom getting really hot.  I did not find this machine any hotter than other laptops I’ve used.  Was careful to keep the ventilation holes (at the bottom) clear, though.

In the past, I would have set vista to be the default OS in Grub, but since I’m not going to do any office work on this laptop, I”m leaving Ubuntu as default, and Vista is there as a nice-to-have in case I need something Ubuntu won’t give me.  Which seems unlikely at this time as all my writing, communications and entertainment needs seem to be ably met by Intrepid Ibex.

The hp 2140 has already been announced, and I supposed I could have waited a little longer to get that machine and the improvements that come with it.  But I’m plenty happy with the performance I’m getting from Ubuntu on the 2133 and will stay with this for quite  a while.

>>Part 2 (bios & video tips)
>>Part 3 (audio tips)
>>Photos here and here

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