Tony Mobily's articles

Is GNU/Linux just not cool anymore?

Software is becoming less and less important. Most people today just don't care about what software they use, what operating system they run, or who is behind the pretty screens they see. What they want, is something that works. Or, better, anything that works. This shift caused a series of changes which shook the whole industry. One of them amongst them: are GNU/Linux and free software in general just not cool anymore? Google Trends gives some interesting answers.

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.

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.

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.

Why Android might just kill GNU/Linux. Quickly.

I write this article exactly 24 hours after receiving my Galaxy Tab 10.1. It's something I've been wanting for a long time. I had to wait for the dispute between Apple and Samsung to settle (Samsung actually lost on millions of dollars worth of sales thanks to software patents, but that's another story). After all that, I came to the realisation that we are in front of a forking path. On one side there is the death of GNU/Linux as we know it. On the other side, there is a new exciting world where free software is still relevant. I am not writing this just to be "sensational": here is why.

Backup your data in Linux with Deja Dup

Hard disks break. Really, they do. When it happens, most people are sadly unprepared: even the most experienced computer person only recovers a (big?) portion of their data after a crash. Even today, with cloud computing. The reason? Backing up is tricky. If you use GNU/Linux or Ubuntu, it's easy enough to make an incremental backup using rsync and gpg. If you have no idea what this means, don't worry: yu will be able to use them without even knowing it.

Welcome to Déjà Dup, the best backup gem I have ever seen.

FOSDEM 2012, Hardware Security and Cryptography, Call for Papers

FOSDEM 2012 will take place in Brussels, the heart of EU.

This is a call for talks and presentations that will take place in the Security devroom at FOSDEM 2012. Do you develop software that can do HTTPS queries? Can it use keys and certificates on a smart card? Does your service use RSA keys for signing? Can it work with hardware keys? Are you interested in protecting your private keys like Three Letter Organizations or do you want to roll your own proper PKI with a smaller than five or six digit budget? How can we make cryptographic hardware Just Work with any application that uses crypto? The devroom is the place to share experiences and learn.

5daysprofitable: A corporate web site, start to finish, in 4 hours

In my previous article, I explained that I would embark in the Herculean task of starting a company, and make it successful and profitable, in just 5 days. And by using free software.

The first piece of this complex puzzle is a corporate web site. I had mine ready in less than 4 hours, start to finish. Here is what I did.

A company, zero to operational and profitable, in 5 days with free software

Everything started with a simple question my wife asked me: you are so good at teaching, why don't you do it? Given that I will only ever work in my own term, I would have to organize everything on my own: incorporation, web site, stationery, advertising, the lot. Chiara's question was natural: well, you can do all that basically for free with Free Software, right?

Right. So, the adventure begins: the bet is that I will have a company, zero to profitable (that means with customers, bookings, etc.) in 5 days.

Free Software Magazine is more exciting now

If you happen to be around here a lot, you probably noticed that things have changed a little: last month, we released our new web site (which is the one you are looking at right now) with a much more friendly look. If you happen to have a phone or a tablet, you would have also noticed that Free Software Magazine is now very phone and tablet friendly.

That's the dress. What about the magazine itself?

Interview with Igor Sysoev, author of Apache's competitor NGINX

NGINX is the new start rising in the landscape of web servers. Well, it's hardly "new" -- it will soon turn 10. However, it's definitely rocking the web server world, with Netcraft showing a huge increase in usage in the last few months.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with NGINX's author, Igor Sysoev, who agreed on answering a few questions for us. So, here is a glimpse on their business model, their new 2.0 version, and more.

Google stopped submitting patents to the USPTO: why?

UPDATE: As pointed out by Bill Slawski, most recently submitted patent applications don't show up within that time period in USTPO searches or Google's patent search because they are initially filed confidentially, under 35 U.S.C. 122 Confidential status of applications; publication of patent applications. So, I was gracefully wrong!

Software patent wars have always existed: companies fought them (or paid up), sometimes quietly, sometimes making a big fuss. However, something has changed over the last year or so: people started getting directly affected by software patents (ask anybody wanting a Samsung Galaxy Tab in Australia for Christmas 2011...). Lately, two things came to my attention: Google acquired 200 patents from IBM. But, more interestingly: Google hasn't filed any patents over the last several months.

Android phones need to give root access. Now!

I wanted to make an impression with my title. I hope I managed. I am writing this article as Gingerbreak's wheel spins aimlessly runs on my Galaxy S phone. I have little hope that I will actually be root on my phone. Here I am: I intended to write an article about Busybox, in order to turn an Android phone into something that really resembled a GNU/Linux system. I failed, twice: as a user, I failed gaining control of my own phone. As a free software advocate, I failed warning people about what could have happened -- and indeed I let it happen.

Abusing the word "free" in software: what's really free in the Google market and in Ubuntu's market?

I am becoming more and more convinced that the real thread to free software (and I am talking here about software released under a free license, not software that you can download and use for free) is contempt. Proprietary software is a competitor, but not a real threat. Proprietary software cannot really kill free software: no matter how many law suits you start, how many patents you file, how many pre-installed versions of Windows you have, common sense will always win. Contempt, however, the the real danger.

Mounting Google Documents in GNU/Linux is just not a (real) option

If you use Google Documents, you might want to be able to access your files without using a browser. So, I was all set, happy to write a good blog entry about how to mount your Google Documents folder on your Ubuntu. (This is not a very free-software thing to do, granted. But then again, if you are an Ubuntu One user, well, Ubuntu One server isn't free software either. But, it's a service, and interfacing to things is crucial.)

So, is it actually possible?

Interview with Adam Green and Jonathan Gray, founders of The Public Domain Review

Adam is a Berlin-based writer and artist. Jonathan works at a not-for-profit organisation called the Open Knowledge Foundation and studies philosophy and intellectual history at the University of London. Together, they created a website called The Public Domain Review

Free Software and public domain are somehow cousins, and -- more importantly -- they share similar goals. I talked to Adam and Jonathan, who agreed to answer a few questions for us.

Google and Privacy: An Open letter to Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Matt Cutts, Vic Gundotra

An Open letter to Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Matt Cutts, Vic Gundotra

Subject: So, does Google look into their users' private, non-shared files, and might close accounts if an AI decides that there is something illegal there?

Dear Sergey, Larry, Matt, and Vic,

Something sad happened to the world of cloud computing over the last week. I have followed with great interest the events of the now-celebrity @thomasmonopoly about Google closing his account.

Here is the short story: @thomasmonopoly had a bunch of (non-shared) images in his Google account. A program at Google flagged some of them as child pornography. His account was suspended. He complained loudly. He went viral. Google first ignored. Then backed their actions. They finally relented and apologised as there was no child pornography there, just an arts project -- a real one.

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