Interview with Alan Robertson of the Heartbeat project

Heartbeat, a free software project, has crashed the price barrier for Linux high-availablity. Redundancy has never been so affordable, thanks in part to the efforts of Alan Robertson, project lead. I caught up with Alan to find out more about the history of the project, and future plans.

MW: How did the Heartbeat project get started?

It’s an Ubuntu world

Ubuntu has become increasing popular amongst many Linux users, especially users trying Linux for the first time. Just why is Ubuntu so popular? I’ll explore some of its features and distributions this month, including Kubuntu and Edubuntu, and try to find out.


Ubuntu, according to their website, is “Linux for Human Beings”. Ubuntu, an ancient African word meaning “humanity to others”, is a community designed Linux distribution based on Debian that is designed to be as user-friendly as possible.

Win a copy of “Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress”

Mon, 2006-01-23 07:08 -- admin

This week we are giving away a copy of Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress by Robert T. Douglass, Mike Little, and Jared W. Smith.

All you need to do to enter is:

1) read our terms and conditions

2) Answer this question:

In our latest newsletter there is an ad for SCALE 4x. What does the acronym SCALE stand for?

3) Send your subscriber name (the email address you use to login), full name and your answer to

A techno-revolutionary trip on the internet

When I think about American presidential elections, three things come to mind: money, corporate power and disenfranchisement. One of the big political stories of our time is the decline of party politics, especially for the young. But another story is that of the internet revitalising democracy, empowering and connecting citizens in a new, vibrant space. Often Utopian, theoretical and romanticised, this vision of the future was made real in the race for the Democratic presidential candidacy recently in America by Howard Dean.

We have a two winners for “Write Portable Code”

Tue, 2006-01-17 09:10 -- admin

Due to a few small problems we had two winners for our last book competition. O'Reilly have generously agreed to providing two prizes.

Congratulations go to:

Greg Lee of Clive, New Zealand


Matthew Jones of Knoxville, TN, USA!

They have both won a copy of Write Portable Code.

Thanks to all who entered.

Using awk

Awk (and Gawk, the GNU alternative) are as old as the hills (well, as old as Unix) and remain as one of the original programmable elements of the Unix operating system, along with the various shells (Bourne shell, Korn shell and C shell, in the original Unix editions).

I’m a tester of Gawk, responsible for checking the compatibility of new releases on different platforms, a job I first started when working on the BeOS and which I now do for Mac OS X, various Linux alternatives, Solaris SPARC and Intel and any other environment I happen to have available.

Book review: Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress

Three books in one, covering popular community building softwareThree books in one, covering popular community building software

Increasingly, the World Wide Web is not about static information pages, nor even dynamic web applications, but the process of creating and maintaining communities and collaborative efforts. Three of the most popular tools for developing such sites are presented in this new book from Apress.

This book is really three small books bound into one volume, as each software package is dealt with in a separate part of the book, apparently by separate authors

The contents

UK judge against software patents

Finally, all those years of intelligent British TV have paid off—a judge there has spoken out against software patents. Some of Sir Robin Jacob’s criticisms are classic:

“The United States takes the view that anything made by man, under the sun, can be patented. And they have granted patents for business methods, mainly computer business methods. But as far as I can see, it would cover a new and improved method of stacking oranges on a barrel.”

Some briefs for this week

Cool Stuff

Among other things I’m also a news editor at Linux User and Developer, and so I have to sift through a lot of material every week. In the process I find news, and a lot of “not news”. Some of the “not news” however is still interesting though, and I want to link to it somewhere—so here’s some free software goodies (and baddies) appearing on the web this week:

From O’Reilly’s

A somewhat pleasant experience

The pleasant experience I’ve mentioned in the title of this entry is that of writing a program. It took me less than a week, and it’s an example of the sort of thing I do as a break from my normal coding and so I don’t take life too seriously. The program is a 3D maze puzzle and can be found here. The reason it was such a pleasure to write I’ll expand on further.

Apache Tomcat faster on Linux than Windows

Web Performance, Inc. has published a performance report comparing tests of Apache Tomcat on Windows and Linux, with interesting results. The report found that Linux was able to handle about 32% more users than Windows on identical hardware with identical test conditions.

What I love about this report is the level of detail they provide about their methodology and the data. They provide all the information needed to duplicate their results. From the press release:

Book review: Programming Ruby by Dave Thomas (with Chad Fowler and Andy Hunt)

Many say that the Ruby language has clearly overtaken both Python and Perl as the popular choice for software development, both for standalone applications and also for web based solutions (through the magic of Ruby on Rails). Programming Ruby, by Dave Thomas was almost certainly instrumental in that process. The first edition of the book has been credited—by Yukihiro Matsumoto, the developer of Ruby—as a key reason for the popularity of the Ruby language outside of Japan.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

Selling ads for Free Software Magazine

Tue, 2006-01-10 04:06 -- admin

Free Software Magazine is all about Free Software. We have published more than 250 articles, ALL under free licenses.

Our web site has matured and is achieving a large amount of traffic, and the magazine is reaching a very large audience: now, it's time for us to decide our marketing strategy for selling ads.

We believe that it is the community who should benefit from the ads—as well as the magazine. So, this is our offer to the free software community: we will pay 20% commission for every ad sold to a company by ANY member of the free software community. Here are the simple rules:

Free software events for December 2005

2005 was a busy year for free software. The early days of 2006 provide a good opportunity to look ahead at the wonders that the new year will bring, but it’s also good to spend a small amount of time reflecting upon what 2005 delivered. Free software technology has made even more inroads into the corporate server space. Desktop and office applications have steadily improved as well, with implementations of them on the sharp increase. Awareness of free software, the business models, philosophy and its advantages are spreading well too.

Win a copy of “Perl Best Practices”

Mon, 2006-01-09 08:05 -- admin

This week we are giving away a copy of Perl Best Practices by Damian Conway.

All you need to do to enter is:

1) read our terms and conditions

2) Answer this question:

In a recent blog entry, Tony Mobily announced that Free Software Magazine is looking for new articles. What type of articles is Free Software Magazine currently looking for?

Entry level articles for Free Software Magazine

Mon, 2006-01-09 02:11 -- admin

Do you want to write for Free Software Magazine?

At Free Software Magazine, we are always looking for new authors and wenow pay for articles (in books) thanks to our sponsors!

At the moment, we are looking for user-orientated articles. Specifically, we are looking for entry level articles on Linux and major GNU/Linux distros like “Ubuntu”.

The articles will need to be very easy to follow. Something your mother would understand without too much effort (even if she doesn’t work as a software engineer for IBM...).


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