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Spark: A Tablet Running Open hardware and KDE Plasma Active Pre-installed

A tablet has been on my to do list since forever. Two things held me back: the priority to replace my terminally ill eight-year old laptop and the unhappily well known fact that the current crop of tablets are tied down more securely that a latter-day Gulliver in Jonathan Swift's tale.

Archiving emails as text files, with command line help

Call me old-fashioned, but I like to store emails in text files, one per correspondent. For example, 'Bloggs_Fred.txt' contains all my emails to and from Fred Bloggs, in chronological order with the newest message last. Other people might have the need to periodically store parts of emails in predefined files (for example, when collecting information).

I wrote a very simple script to make this kind of archiving easier. Before I explain the script, I'll show you how it works.

Book review: Open Advice

A lot of people work hard trying to benefit Free Software. All together, we make a difference. Then again, some people manage to make a huge difference. They are sometimes lucky, but most often than not just immensely dedicated. Well, if you want to hear the opinions of dedicated people heavily involved in free software, this is the book for you.

Read Open Advice online!

What to do if your mail server is blacklisted

This article is not strictly about free software. In fact, it's not about free software at all: it's about what to do to find out if your server's IP is blacklisted for sending mail. I just discovered Valli.org as one of the things I had to do to sort the Free Software Magazine mailing list, and wanted to check why some of our emails were rejected. (Note: We are not affiliated in any way with Valli.org.) If you manage a Postfix mail server, this is a resource you cannot miss.

Book Review: Animating with Blender by D. Roland Hess

Among the books I've read to get my head around the process of creating an animated film with Blender, this one is definitely the best. Nowadays you'll probably want to use Blender 2.5 or later, and this book is based on 2.49, but even with this problem, I'd still recommend it. The real win of this book is the way it deals with the synoptic view of the project: how to organize your project, how to break it down into manageable chunks, and even how to store it on disk. It's an excellent resource.

Book Review: The Transparent Society by David Brin

This book is a bit of a departure for my Free Software Magazine book reviews, it's a philosophical and social essay by science-fiction writer David Brin, and it's over 13 years old (published in 1998). But as I am reading this now, I'm struck by how prophetic this book is towards events that are going on in the world today.

MegaGlest: a fantastic, free software strategy 3D game

When the Glest team started "Glest" as a college project a few years ago, they probably didn't expect their game to go such a long way. While "Glest" stopped being developed a couple of years ago in 2009, it was forked in two different projects: GAE (Glest Advanced Engine) and MegaGlest (the game I am reviewing in this article). So, how is it? The answer is simple: this game is incredible, polished, enjoyable, addictive, smart, and plain simply fantastic.

Free gaming platforms: welcome to the revolution

Talking about online gaming and gambling is a huge issue -- and it has always been. Many people have strong opinions about gambling, and yet Las Vegas exists, as well as many others ways to gamble. Gamblers have soon turned online, and found a huge market there too. I recently visited an online casino and started wondering: what does online gambling have to offer, in terms of free and open source software? The answer will probably surprise you.

Book Review: No Safe Harbor by the US Pirate Party

When I first heard the expression "Pirate Party", I was sure it was some kind of a joke. When I found out they were actually getting elected to representative seats in Europe, though, I certainly started taking the idea seriously. But could a political party in the USA actually get somewhere with a name like the "United States Pirate Party". Certainly not without a good platform introduction -- and that's what this book of essays is all about.

Book Review: Sound Effects Tips and Tricks by Eddie Bazil

Not so much a software book as a book on theory and technique of sound processing, "Sound Effects, Tips and Tricks" is a concise look at what can be done with good signal processing software. I found the book interesting, occasionally frustrating, and enlightening. In the end, it mostly taught me to have a better understanding of what I didn't know -- but that's useful.

Download Sites: Rogue Pirate Hangouts or Vogue Free Media Distributors?

YouTube is good, but not ideal, and the lack of a download link is somewhat annoying. So I spent some time researching good free media hosting sites for large files and ISOs. Torrent sites are particularly good for hosting the high-definition versions.

Book Review: Bounce, Tumble, and Splash! by Tony Mullen

Modeling every single aspect of a scene in a 3D application like Blender is hard when details are very fine (as with hair, bubbles, smoke, or a field of grass), and so there are a variety of automated techniques for pseudo-random modeling. It's also hard to animate every behavior accurately and realistically, especially of complex deforming surfaces. Fortunately, Blender can work out the physics -- applying gravity, collisions, and flexible movement for you. This book is a guide to this difficult subject.

What if Diaspora's pods just cannot challenge Facebook's monolithic structure?

When Diaspora was announced, the first thing I checked was simple: "Is it distributed?" The answer was "yes!". I felt ecstatic: having a distributed system implied that there was no centralised control over the information. What I didn't realise is that multiple pods would also lead to multiple problems -- and now I wonder whether a de-centralised structure creates more problems than it solves. I write this article screaming: please prove me wrong. It's not a challenge: it's a genuine request. I love Diaspora as a project, and I really want it to work.

Book Review: Stop Staring by Jason Osipa

After looking at several recommendations on the best sources for a good book on rigging and animation characters' faces (which will obviously be very important for our Lunatics project), I came across this one, "Stop Staring: Facial Modeling and Animation Done Right". The book lives up to the expectations of careful analysis of facial expression and movement; provides guidance applicable to a wide range of character designs; and is largely neutral as to the 3d application used.

Apple's iBook EULA exemplifies Everything that's wrong with Proprietary Software

Lovers and users of free and open source software are a hardy bunch. They've seen it all: Microsoft EULAs, DRM, UEFI, proprietary software and constant attempts to prevent end users jailbreaking and rooting the devices they paid for with hard-earned cash. If you think you've seen and heard it all, well, you haven't. Apple may have trumped them all with a possibly unique EULA.

The real problem with media pirate culture: Punishing artists for making art

There is a problem with the world of illegal piracy that we have online today, but it's not what the RIAA and MPAA want you to think it is. It's that we've become accustomed to participating in illegal copying, and yet it is still illegal. This means that we have the illusion of a body of work that can be built upon, remixed, and combined with new work, but if real artists practice this commercially, we are exposed to legal attack.

Are we too dependent on the USA for "our" WWW

By now you'll have heard and experienced the anti-SOPA protest. Wikipedia, Wired, Wordpress, Google, Twitpic and even this very tome were joined by probably thousands of smaller sites as large sections of the web went black to demonstrate what the web might end up like should SOPA be passed. As a Brit I joined in - even though the bill is a US one - because the effects of this nefarious piece of "leglislation" would most certainly be felt on the fair green isles that make up my homeland. The good news is both SOPA and PIPA were shelved after the protest - which proves if nothing else the power of protest. Yes they may wel return in some other form so the fight may not be over but the protest itself (for me) raised another question: is the [English-speaking] web too US-centric?

Bulk renaming using Thunar

Thunar is a lightweight file manager that comes with Xubuntu and other Xfce-based distributions. It has several useful features not found in other popular file managers, like 'Bulk Rename'. To use this feature, select a group of files in the Thunar file pane and hit the F2 key, or choose Rename from the Edit menu. A window appears with 'before and after' views of your file names, and a drop-down list showing the renaming possibilities.

Pirate Bay Gets Physical with 3D Designs

The torrent site, Pirate Bay has introduced a new category of downloads -- for physical designs of 3D-printable objects. This is an interesting step forward for Open Hardware as this will make designs available to a broader audience. There is already a proprietary distribution channel via Shapeways, but making the designs publicly downloadable means they can be printed by local suppliers or on your own 3D printer.

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