Joseph Zikusooka ~ Zik

A software engineer specializing in open source technologies | Very experienced in building and configuring UNIX/Linux systems and servers. Passionate about developing software applications and hardware for the smart home | Currently serving as the CEO of Jambula Labs and the project leader at JambulaTV, a smart home automation and entertainment platform - | This blog focuses on the following areas: Linux How-Tos and Tutorials ::: IT Security News ::: Free and Libre Open Source Software ::: Smart Home Software ::: Digital Innovations in East Africa |

Month: October 2013

Uganda’s Digital TV migration has stalled

For nearly a month now, Uganda’s Free-To-Air digital TV signals have been off. After many followers of this project breathed a sigh of relief when the transmission began a couple of months ago, it has once again become clear why the transition to digital TV in Uganda will really be messy.

To date, the testing phase for the greater kampala area has really been nothing short of a gimmick. The channels allotted to free over-the-air broadcasters have been intermittent, and when off, no communication has been provided. Also, there’s no publicly available schedule – just press statements from officials.

Most perplexing is the fact that the body in charge of migration i.e. Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has been running adverts on local media announcing Digital TV and its benefits. Even, for someone who understands what digital TV is all about, I find these ads very unhelpful considering that they’s really no concrete migration schedule or ‘call to action.’ Also, why advertise at this point if no test or pilot program is even available. All I see that the adverts are doing is simply creating anxiety as opposed to informing the public.

I would like to suggest the following to UCC:

A signal test period with start and end dates be advertised to the public. This can be done on website, social media, and the local papers.

Notify the public when the channels are switched off such as during maintenance, upgrades etc

Furthermore, there ought to be a forum where TV owners and especially early adopters can provide feedback on TV quality signals etc. The current web pages on the UCC’s website on Digital TV migration do not provide any updates whatsoever.

Also, there’s currently no recommended manufacturer list of DVB-T2 converters that TV owners should buy. How about outlets where these tuners can be purchased? I know there are the pay TV providers, but that is not enough.

In summary, I highly recommend that UCC come out with regular updates on TV migration. Where exactly are we? The deadline date is really too close for such a venture!

OK, I know with all the issues being experienced with procurement, politics etc this may be too much to ask of Uganda Communications Commission to do.

But come on guys, Ugandans deserve better, and would want to know what exactly is going on with this important project. If you have issues tell us, we understand the environment!

How to create your own Linux install image

I was reading this google+ post by Linux’ very own Linus Torvalds. One of the comments reads “I feel like Mom and Dad are fighting. I love Fedora and I love Linux :)” Clearly, Linux distributions come with their own specific set of packaging rules and guidelines. Sometimes, it does not make sense to everyone. And when that someone else is Linus, people will go ‘bonkers’ to either agree or disagree with him. But why the noise?

To any one who’s not ventured into the murky waters of Linux kernel building and packaging, you may be wondering why a topic like this one solicits such responses even if its not coming from the man who invented Linux. Believe me – it is a big deal.

Due to the rapid development of open-source software, the Linux kernel and packages on the original CD/DVD images tend to become outdated over a short period of time. Sometimes, those packages become insecure and vulnerable. Furthermore, with all the latest and cool hardware devices that vendors are producing every other day, the Linux kernel has to be upgraded so as to be fully usable by those devices.

So in my opinion, Linus Torvalds is half right, since non-techie users need to get Linux working straight out of the box. My feeling though is that the main distros are really not meant for the Linux newbies. That is why re-spins seem to be a lot popular with new Linux users. So if you made it this far and are still reading this, how do you go about creating a re-spin? Here is one way:

Lately, I’ve been spending sometime, creating customized versions of the Fedora Linux images. I use these Fedora re-spins for the embedded products I’ve been working on such as the JambulaPi, TV STB etc. BTW, these re-spins of Fedora are open source and free, so I plan on posting them to a public site in a not too distant future!

A very useful tool for creating custom images for Fedora Linux is called livemedia-creator. Livemedia-creator uses Anaconda, kickstart and Lorax to create bootable media such as live iso’s that use the same install path as a normal system install.

To install it:

sudo yum install lorax

Then, take a look at the readme file located at /usr/share/doc/lorax-*/README.livemedia-creator. There you will find examples on how to set up your very own customized Linux distribution. A kickstart file is highly recommended as you can add other repositories for installing software that is not originally included in the Fedora releases. Also, it lets you do things like adding initial users, etc. Take a look at Kickstarting Fedora Linux installations.

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