When I wrote an article for FSM a few years ago about 3D printing it was a big topic in the open-source community but it had not yet gone fully mainstream. If there was one thing guaranteed to make 3D printing explode onto the mainstream news media it was an item about someone "printing" a gun. That got your attention, didn't it? Mine too. It's controversial of course but it might just be the beginning of a rerun of the Napster/Piratebay episodes in the 21st century - with the inevitable debate between patent-free, non-hierarchical open-source models and patent-encumbered proprietary software and hardware. Napster was a ripple. 3D printing will be a tsunami.
One of the special problems with managing a multimedia project (versus a text-based software project), is that there are often links to external data files which can get broken when you try to move the files around -- such as you might do when re-factoring the source code to make it more navigable. Three programs that we use extensively in the Lunatics project present this problem, and each requires slightly different handling. These are Inkscape, Blender, and Audacity. I have never found a compact guide to keeping the links straight in these programs, so I'm going to write one here.
Google has recently announced that they will take Google Reader offline. "I won't miss it. Never used the damn thing. Didn't trust the idea of a big company like Google's interests being so aligned with mine that I could trust them to get all my news." said one the inventors of RSS but to feel the pain online of those will miss it is to see that many do not agree. I'm not one of them.
This has been a very busy year for our "Lunatics" project (a free-film/free-culture animated web series about the first settlers on the Moon). As with many software projects, we keep our assets in a version-control system -- specifically "Subversion". In principle, Subversion does everything we need. The command line interface, however, does not make the right things easy for us (it's far too obsessed with parsing text files, which are incidental to our project, and it balks when given binary data files (which are essential). To keep a handle on the file tree, we need something a little smarter, and I've recently adopted "kdesvn" to do that job. This seems to solve the biggest annoyances.
quickplot is a fast, interactive 2-D plotter. All it needs to do its job is a text file with x and y points in a list. If those points are longitude and latitude in decimal degrees, quickplot works like a simple GIS program, with some surprising capabilities.
This article explains how I set up quickplot to do species mapping for Australia. For most of my mapping work I use qgis and Google Maps/Earth, but quickplot is handy for quickly making simple maps and zooming in on details. With an executable size of only 453 kb, quickplot is the tiniest and fastest GIS I know.
The artists guide to the Gimp is a book that gets everything right. In terms of design, the book's layout breaks all the rules of how to make a computer manual: it is in landscape format, it's all in colour, and it's printed on glossy paper that makes you feel you are browsing a brochure, rather than a book. In terms of contents, the book covers everything with such ease that you end up reading the parts you weren't really interested in.
I had the privilege to interview Ray Stoeckicht, the co-founder of an exciting new free software/open souce company creating Zurmo. Zurmo is a "social CRM": a program aimed at making CRM fun (if you know something about CRM, you will know that the word "fun" never seems to associate with CRM).
In a previous article I introduced the idea of modifying text between copy and paste in Linux, using a 'CoPa' script based on the
xclip utility. Please refer to that article for the basic ideas.
Here I demonstrate two handy CoPa scripts for spreadsheets, and a simple coder/decoder for (very!) low-level encryption of email text and other messages.
/tmp is a vital ingredient of any Unix-like OS. If your /tmp is too small, but you only discover that fact when you are in the middle of a crucial task, is all lost? Or is there a way to avoid the worst consequences of your earlier imprudence?
This is an odd story. It began about 10 years ago, when I needed a database, then it moved back 30 years, and now I don't need one.
Confused? I promise to explain, and also to demonstrate some surprisingly useful command-line tricks.
This article describes a simple but useful hack: putting an
xclip script between copy and paste. I call it 'CoPa scripting'.
Ubuntu Made easy: A project-based introduction to Linux, published by No Starch Press, was written for the new Ubuntu user. The authors Rickford Grant and Phil Bull deliver on the titles promise with content that covers a comprehensive range of practical topics. This book rapidly describes practical recipes for the most common and a few less common home centric tasks. The authors push the new user with increasing velocity towards a detailed understanding of the Ubuntu Unity desktop.
Have you ever wanted to split a spreadsheet into several spreadsheets according to the contents of a particular field? For example, you might have a music tracks spreadsheet with an 'artist name' field, and you want separate spreadsheets for each artist, with the usual field names along the top of each new spreadsheet.
You can split a spreadsheet by copying and pasting the different sections into new spreadsheets if there aren't many records. If there are lots of records, this manual approach can be pretty tiring. For splitting very large spreadsheets, most users turn to special stand-alone programs (in the Excel world) or fairly complicated macros (Excel, Open/LibreOffice Calc).
I split my spreadsheets using the GNU/Linux command line, as explained in this article. It's another of my trademark ugly hacks, but it works well and the command line steps can be combined into a script which runs fast and reliably.
In this article, I will talk about an exciting chain of events which brought several universities together: instead of buying different Learning Management Systems, they teamed up and started working on the same piece of software -- together. This led to the development of Sakai, a fantastic Learning Management System. I will also talk about the importance, for organisations like the Sakai foundation, to then merge with similar ones (which share similar goals) for the same reason: avoid work duplication.
Software architect Gabriel Nistor talks to Trevor Parsons about Ally-Py, the new Free Software framework designed to get the most from web APIs.
Sourcefabric’s Superdesk enables news organisations to manage all of their newsroom activities, including planning, ingest, writing, publication and archiving. It is written in Python and released under GNU GPLv3. At the heart of Superdesk is the Ally-Py rapid development framework, built from the ground up to help media enterprises exploit the world of REST APIs.
Bruce Willis has been trending on Twitter this week. Nothing to do with his dubious acting abilities. No, a story began to circulate that he wanted to bequeath his iTunes music collection (spread over numerous Apple devices) to his children but discovered that Apple not only owned the hardware and the software but also "his" music too. It now appears that this might be an unfounded rumour but, true or false, it raises some very interesting questions about the status of digital real estate in the event of death.
In a previous article on syncing and restoring your GMail account with the excellent GMVault I voiced one minor and perhaps unfair criticism. Namely, that as backed up e-mails had no recognizable titles, it was virtually impossible to identify specific messages. But, of course, that was never the intended purpose of GMVault. It would have been the icing on the cake if it was.
Backing up all your precious data and settings is a given. However, when it comes to e-mail we tend to develop amnesia. It's the ghost at the banquet, yet losing your e-mails, your address book and contacts (especially if you run a business) would be a catastrophe. Fail to backup at your peril. Of course, if you use a desktop client like Evolution of Thunderbird, configuring either of them with IMAP will do the trick for you but if you prefer the traditional web interface for Gmail, then you need a different solution. GMVault may be that solution.
Some webpages contain email links. If you right-click on the link in most Web browsers, a menu appears that lets you copy the email address to the clipboard (first screenshot). You can then paste the address into the To field of a new email message.
In recent versions of Mozilla's Firefox browser, you can also left-click on the link and get some action. If Mozilla's Thunderbird is your default mail program, a Thunderbird 'compose' window may appear with the To field automatically filled in. This article explains how you can get the same automatic result under Linux with the excellent open-source mail programs Sylpheed and Claws Mail. The method also works with Iceweasel, which is the rebranded Firefox packaged with Debian GNU/Linux.
Packt is one of the first publishers who actively supported us back in 2005, when this mad adventure started. They were just starting up back then, and yet they invested in Free Software Magazine in several ways (including monetary).
Free Software Magazine is not the only project that benefits from them: Packt's "Believe in Open Source" campaign has already donated more than $400,000 to the projects they cover in their books.