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"Lunatics!" is back - Crowd-funding, Free-culture, and Free-Software

After an additional year of production work, our free-film project "Lunatics!" is back up on Kickstarter. We have a lot more done - some "finished" animation, voice acting and soundtrack mixing, a lot more completed 3D models, including some of the toughest mech modeling, and several characters. We are still 100% free-culture, using CC By-SA license for everything we release, and we're still open-source, making our models and other elements available to the commons. We use only music with By-SA compatible licenses, and we are working entirely with free-software, especially Blender, Kdenlive, and Audacity.

Finding changes in a sorted list: a trick

Think of a phone directory listing with a lot of Browns followed by some Brownes, Brownings and Brownleys. Is there a simple way to identify the places in the sorted list where Brown changes to Browne, Browne to Browning and Browning to Brownley?

If you're a programmer, you've probably just thought of an 'if, then' test for items in the list. If you're an AWK-lover (like me!) you may have started thinking about the getline option.

There's another and more interesting way to do this job on the GNU/Linux command line, as explained below.

The Googlisation of Surveillance: The UK Communications Data Bill

There is a belief that democracies respect the rights of their citizens. Well, they don't. There is a great deal of cant written about that but even the democratic modern state has become so big, so intrusive and utterly overbearing that its cancerous tentacles have insinuated themselves into every orifice of the body politic. No sooner has one threat to personal and internet freedom receded than another springs up like proverbial dragon's teeth. One of Hecate's children of the night has been brewing for a while and is set to make its way onto the statute book here in the UK.

Save time with AWK print

Since discovering AWK last year I've been using it regularly with tables of data. It seems like everything I do with those tables is faster and easier with AWK on the command line than the same jobs would be with spreadsheet software.

Below are a couple of examples that demonstrate the handiness of the print command in AWK. If you've never used AWK before, see the links at the end of the article for a quick introduction to the basics.

Great book giveaway from Packt Publishing: GIMP Starter Guide

If you want to learn how to use GIMP, this is your chance to win a book that will teach you just that!

Packt made available 5 copies of the great book GIMP Starter Guide by Fazreil Amreen.

In order to win it, all you have to do is write a comment to this article listing all the typos you can find in this article: Ubuntu Touch: the (natural) next step in personal computing?. .

Ubuntu Touch: the (natural) next step in personal computing?

I don't think many people have realised that we are on the verge of a technological revolution. The computing world is changing, and this is the first time GNU/Linux is catching the revolution as it begins. Computers are getting smaller and smaller, while phones are getting bigger and bigger. Everybody can see that they are about to converge -- but in what form? Well, the answer is: GNU/Linux -- before anybody else. The ingredients? A great GNU/Linux distribution, a leader with the right vision, and a few very bold, ground-breaking choices. Mix it well: the result is Ubuntu Touch.

Wikiweapons and Printing 3D Guns. It's Just a Stalking Horse for What's to Come

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.

Refactoring in a Multimedia Project with Inkscape, Blender, and Audacity

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 Reader: Google Giveth and Google taketh away. Keep Calm and Carry On

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.

Using kdesvn on a multimedia project

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.

A very tiny GIS

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.

Book review: The artist's guide to the Gimp by Michael J. Hammel

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.

Zurmo, the free CRM: Interview with Ray Stoeckicht

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).

CoPa: 2 scripts for LibreOffice Calc and 1 for the kid in you

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.

Book Review: Ubuntu Made Easy

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.

Split a spreadsheet into multiple files with the GNU/Linux command line

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.

Free e-learning software: unifying coding efforts, and admin efforts

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.

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