Tony Mobily's articles

It's 2015, writing a simple 6 screen application is still too hard

Last night I saw a message from a friend of mine in Facebook: she is trying to organise a baby sitting community where people who trust each other will exchange "tokens" when they babysit each other's children. My first reaction was something I just couldn't resist: I drew up a normalised bunch of tables (6, to be precise) which will organise carers, children homes, and bookings. I even wrote the server side part of the story as a bunch of REST calls (it took me 2 hours in total). Then... I realised that giving an interface to my data was way, way harder than it should be.

The simple guide to bitcoins using Electrum

Bitcoin is the most established digital currency available today. It provides a safe, anonymous way to send and receive a virtual currency everybody trusts. However, managing bitcoins is not quite as simple as managing a bank account. In this article I will explain how to manage your bitcoins using Electrum. Please note that in this article I will provide working knowledge of how to use Electrum, without entering the mysterious land of cryptography and technical details of Bitcoin.

Secret Maryo Chronicles: a wonderful GNU/Linux game

For those people who grew up on the "classic", 2D version of Super Mario, and -- why not -- those who like simple, but very refined games, Secret Maryo Chronicles is not to be missed. Mind you, it's not Mario, but Maryo; however, it's just as much fun.

If you are familiar with Super Mario, you will find right at home here: you will find turtles, mushrooms, nasty plants, pipes, and many other elements that are typical of this classic game.

The game is released under the GPL v.3; so, it's fully free for you to download, play, and -- why not -- change, also thanks to the built-in world editor.

Create an encrypted disk image in GNU/Linux

In my previous article about creating a "mountable" disk image in GNU/Linux, I explained how to create a file that effectively mimics the functionality of a disk: I explained how to create a file which will then be used, in turn, to contain directories and files. In this article I will explain how to make the next natural step: encrypt that file.

Why we need anonymity on the Internet -- even if it hurts

I have recently restarted Free Software Magazine, after working full time on a free software project. One of my articles ended up on Slashdot. In the past, this meant hours of frantic work: on one hand, being "slashdotted" meant dealing with a huge influx of traffic which normally brought our server to its knees; on the other hand, it meant discussing the article with very intelligent people. I didn't expect what followed this time: I was the target of what I assume to be a couple of well spoken millennials who carried out a grating, personal attack against me.

Netflix: the crumbling borders of geolocation and the thieves who happily pay for what they "steal"

One upon a time, movies were released in different countries at different times. This could be done because there was no easy way to copy and store away a movie. If you lived in Italy, you could wait up to two years before you saw a popular movie. Then two things happened: it became easy to copy and store movies; and everybody in the world suddenly became interconnected. The regional segregation ended: the only ones to believe that it's still there are the dinosaurs from a past era.

Opening large PDF files in GNU/Linux: muPDF comes to the rescue

I was recently given an ebook by a friend. It was a photography book, with tons of hi-res images and very little text. When I opened it with Ubuntu, Evince (the default PDF viewer that comes with Ubuntu) gave in: after a few pages, it slowed to a crawl. I did a bit of research, and found the program that rescued my viewing needs: MuPDF. The good news was that I could finally read my book. The bad news was that I found out that the company behind it has in the past misunderstood the terms of the GPL and started a (later withdrawn) litigation against Palm.

Ubuntu Software Center: proprietary and free software mixed in a confusing UI

I have been watching the evolution of the Ubuntu Software Center for quite a while now. I had doubts about its interface and its speed, but I liked the fact that it offered an easy, down-to-earth interface that allowed users to install software easily.

However, I have to say that the way the Ubuntu Software Center has evolved is worrying me -- a lot.

Watch Netflix outside the US, for nearly free (without paying for a tunnel)

Some services line Netflix have an annoying geolocation restriction that made them unavailable outside the United States. In case of Netflix, this is due to licensing issues. It's not a slim difference: do you want to be able to access just over one thousand movies, or would you prefer to have access to over thirteen thousand movies?

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.

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.

Packt Publishing is celebrating their 1000th book tomorrow

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.

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