Healthy Fruit Juices In Trivandrum

For most visitors to Kerala the tender coconut juice seems to be standard choice. If you are feeling adventurous visit Chitra Juice Palace near the Law College in central Trivandrum. This juice shop offers an uncanny assortment of fresh fruit juices at affordable prices. Watching the owner of the shop Suresh man the seven juice blenders at the same time like a samurai is a special treat.

Suresh returned from the middle east few years ago to open this juice shop. He soon started to experiment adding south Indian species to his lime juices. He created various combinations of fruits juices based on his clients taste, he is innovator with knack for creating new juices that appeal and sometimes shock your palate. Even the doctors of the city visit the shop to taste his special recipes that seems to cure bad common cold or relive the headache from the heat.

Suresh making juicesposters offering various juices

Free Software Accessibility, Call to Arms

Chris Hofstader Director of Access Technology for Project GNU writes his thoughts on the future of Free Software Accessibility.

Call to Arms

In the time since I joined FSF/GNU as Director of Access Technology, I have focussed largely on policy, fundraising and coordination with other groups. Meanwhile, I've whined a lot about the state of the software which must be our highest priority.

We have three areas where we need to focus our hacking efforts: OS level things like dbus (I don't understand this part of a GNU/Linux system too well but Bill, Joanie and Janina seem to have good ideas for these areas), orca and other AT "middleware" that needs to communicate both with the OS and applications and, very importantly, support for the applications and how they communicate with the AT.

We thought of setting priorities but this would, at the start at least, just be a list of lists of lists and would probably, like so many lists before it, die on the vine.

So, instead of finding tasks and then volunteers to work on them, we are switching gears again and trying to first find volunteers and asking them what they want to work on. We may try to suggest specific high priorities for volunteers but, as they aren't being paid, letting them find their way to the projects they find interesting will likely be the best route to productivity.

We also need volunteers to step up and take the lead role on projects and project components. Don has taken charge of OCR and we've seen great progress there, Joanie owns orca and needs lots of help, Bill and Tony (of course) run the vinux shop, Sina is leading the Java Access stuff but, while we've talked about it a lot, we've no leader for speech recognition/dictation, no one on magnification, learning disabilities and other projects suited for people with non-vision disabilities. On braille, of course, we have John J. Boyer whose project has led the pack for a number of years. We are on our way to a FLOSS AT future but we've lots of work from now until then.

At yesterday's Open a11y ( call, we discussed priorities and a list of mostly vision related items topped the list. This group needs help with regression testing for orca (this can be done by pretty junior people and those interested should contact Joanie but keep in touch with us so we can know what is going on around this small community) and the second item was poor performance of orca which needs people with C programming skills, an understanding of how GNU/Linux works under the hood and a talent for finding bottlenecks (Python will also be helpful) and this group should probably contact either Joanie or Bill but, as above, stay in touch with us.

A lot of us, including me, complain about performance and functionality in various applications when running orca. We've got to stop whining and get hacking. It would be good to have people take the lead on Firefox, OpenOffice and other "high value" programs. It would also be useful for people to take charge of entirely new AT (like speech recognition) projects to help us move forward in areas that are not already covered.

We need resources to be used judiciously but we also want our hackers to have fun working on projects they will find most rewarding. We need hackers, testers, documenters and probably a bunch of other skills that I cannot think of at this moment.

Please forward this message to as many lists you can find that may have interested parties on them. Also, if anyone on this distribution has skills in languages other than English, please try to send along translations calling for volunteers who may not speak English.

HK GO+ Portable iPod Sound Dock

Got a chance to use the Harman Kardon Go + Play Portable Speakers System with Dock for iPod this evening weekend party at a friends place. Its a great buy if you are looking for an inexpensive portable speakers with some great sound. The build is solid and sturdy, even on uneven, smooth surfaces like car roof for a outdoor party or a rock ledge, your ipod is in safe hands. The design is very minimal, there are only three buttons for power and volume control. ipod sound dock front view

There are couple of downsides, I noticed bass sound was not great. Also you can't see the ipod screen when its docked. The large metal handle bar blocks the view and angle of the ipod faces upside. Its a major design flaw. Overall this is a great affordable ipod sound dock system. A Good buy!

ipod sound dock to view

Acer Aspire One BIOS Reflashing

Few hours before flying out of Nepal the Acer Aspire One netbook died. The BIOS got screwed, netbook won't even complete Power On Self Test(POST). Competent computer hardware technicians I hear are as rare as the famed Himalayan Yeti. Wiping my tears and picking up the thousand pieces of shared ego from the floor, I set about reflashing the BIOS. Thankfully, the relief was quick.

How to reflash a Acer Aspire One BIOS

Please be careful, you might end up bricking your netbook. :)

  1. Download the latest BIOS and extract the v.3114.zipcontent to USB pendrive
  2. Rename the ZG5_3114.fd to 'ZG5IA32.FD'.
  3. Power on the netbook the with pendrive connected while holding down Fn + Esc keys. Make sure the power cable is attached.
  4. After a few seconds the power light blinks, press power button once and wait till the netbook reboots.
It took few minutes for new BIOS to be flashed and the computer automatically rebooted.

Acer Aspire One Battery Charging Problem

If you believe amnesia is a malady that effects humans, think again. Recently a Acer Aspire One netbook landed on my table with a similar problem. It refused to charge the battery, perhaps it always thinks the its battery already full. The only way you can use this machine was by connecting it the power outlet.

A quick search on the Internet will turn up a lot of Acer Aspire One (AOA) owners reporting similar problems. Quite often people update the Bios to fix this problem. However there is similar solution.

The Problem

The Amber (Orange) battery light blinks constantly and netbook works only on AC power.

The Solution

Follow the steps given below. (Please be careful when handling computer electrical components like batteries and AC Adapters)

  • Remove the battery and hold down the power button for few seconds (to drain all remaining power)
  • Power up the computer without the battery with the A/C adapter plugged in.
  • Wait for few seconds and plug the battery back in

After a few tries the computer should start charging normally. The amber battery stops blinking and turn green when fully charged.

OLPC Solar Charger

The OLPC Solar charger started working this morning, the 8W solar panel started charging the OLPC without an issue. The power controller which regulates the power input to the OLPC is simple enough to be assembled with locally available electronics.

The OLPC solar charger is developed at BWB Center of Social Innovation. Keep watching this space for more updates on this project.

Power Controller connected to OLPC 8W Solar Panel

Nepal National Audio Library For Blind

Spent a month in the beautiful city of Pokhara in Nepal. Here on invitation from Inclusion Empowerment Center (IEC) Nepal, a organisation run by my friend Khom Raj Sharma. He was instrumental in creating the first audio library for blind in Nepal few years ago. Prithivi Narayan campus is a short ride from Lakeside Pokhara, sitting high above the white waters of the Seti river. It is walking distance from Seti River Gorge, a popular tourist destination.

I met up with Khom, Tek Thapa, Birajman Kumal, Laxman Subedi and Kumar Pun at the campus. Most of them are the former students and now work with various non-profit organisations, they are my tour guides for this morning. Walking around the campus, I learnt about the problems they faced as blind students, the lack of accessible teaching material was a biggest issue and the National Audio for Blind (NALB) was born. We interacted with some the blind students of the university on the way to the library.

Walking towards the library National Audio Library of Nepal, front view

We then entered the Regional library building and walked past the wooden librarians desk and beyond the rows of tables to the far right corner of the library. The audio library is housed inside a sound proof room with large glass windows looking out into the main library. The space is divided into a large main hall and three small rooms. On one side along the glass paneled wall is large table with work spaces for a dozen people. Instead of workstations, we have DAISY players with headphones and few tape and CD players. Around the room there are large cabinets with neatly stacked disks of reading material. There is a recording room with workstation running DAISY recording software suite, a editing room with CD-ROM, tape replication/copier machines and office space for administrative purposes. It is neat and orderly. Unlike other projects in developing countries this library is clearly well cared for and buzzing with activity.

DAISY players and workstation desk Kumar listening to DAISY book Recording Studio cabinet with reading material disks Khom explain the replication system CD replicator/copier Tape replicator/copier

The project was setup by Kaski Association of the Blind(KAB) with the aid of Force Foundation of Netherlands. The Tribhuvan University contributes money for running of library and students get access to library for a nominal annual fee. It is very heartening to see this initiative born out the need of print disabled. Perhaps other developing countries can learn from this project and build audio libraries of their own.

Orca Caps Lock Issue

Caps Lock key doesn't work is the most common complaint from Orca screen readers users. On Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx I found that Caps Lock is reset mysteriously. Here is workaround you can use until we find the culprit responsible for this.

Debugging with xmodmap

You find the present keymaps setting with xmodmap command. You can see that the line starting 'lock' is empty. We can set it properly with xmodmap -e "add Lock = Caps_Lock".

$ xmodmap 
xmodmap:  up to 4 keys per modifier, (keycodes in parentheses):

shift       Shift_L (0x32),  Shift_R (0x3e)
control     Control_L (0x25),  Control_R (0x69)
mod1        Alt_L (0x40),  Alt_R (0x6c),  Meta_L (0xcd)
mod2        Num_Lock (0x4d)
mod4        Super_L (0x85),  Super_R (0x86),  Super_L (0xce),  Hyper_L (0xcf)
mod5        ISO_Level3_Shift (0x5c),  Mode_switch (0xcb)

# Set the Caps_Lock with xmodmap 
$ xmodmap -e "add Lock = Caps_Lock"

# Now caps lock works properly
$ xmodmap 
xmodmap:  up to 4 keys per modifier, (keycodes in parentheses):

shift       Shift_L (0x32),  Shift_R (0x3e)
lock        Caps_Lock (0x42)
control     Control_L (0x25),  Control_R (0x69)
mod1        Alt_L (0x40),  Alt_R (0x6c),  Meta_L (0xcd)
mod2        Num_Lock (0x4d)
mod4        Super_L (0x85),  Super_R (0x86),  Super_L (0xce),  Hyper_L (0xcf)
mod5        ISO_Level3_Shift (0x5c),  Mode_switch (0xcb)

Bash Autostart script for setting Caps lock

Now we know that this can be fixed so I used a bash script to call the modmap script everytime we boot. Somehow '.Xmodmap' settings are not getting loaded so I am using an alternative script '.xmodmaprc' and call it from .bashrc file manually. # .xmodmaprc xmodmap -e "add Lock = Caps_Lock" # .bashrc if [ -f ~/.xmodmaprc ]; then . ~/.xmodmaprc fi

Reboot the computer and enable the modmap file to be loaded at boot time. Enable Modmap load at book dialog PS: Kudos to dotslashblog for the xmodmaprc solution

Change Makers :: My Booklist

Few people venture out into the unknown fueled by idealism and by sheer power of their will transform the lives of many.

Over the last few weeks I started collecting the list of books by such change makers. Its amazing how many people contributed to this list. My backpacking buddy introduced me to 'Two Cups of Tea' in Thailand, I visited Cabbages & Condoms restaurant in Bangkok. The hotel owner in Nepal suggested the 'Room to read' project. Guisamel, a fellow passenger on flight over Himalayas suggested 'Schools in the clouds'. Some of the books I already read and others still on my reading list.