Tony Mobily's articles

Free Software Magazine caught in the 3fn shutdown crossfire

This article is necessarily going to be short: I am busy restoring our server from a backup from the 2nd of June. Why? Because 3FN was shut down by the FTC; and yes, 3fn is the hosting company we used and were sponsored by.

We are now hosting the magazine with the angels at OpenHosting, which in this case were a life saver.

FSM Newsletter 6 May 2009

What's in a look? Before Apple started making immensely slick, sexy hardware, the main issues were always "specs", "graphic cards", "memory". Then, the game changed. People started buying Apple computers because they looked good -- inside and out. Their computers (and gadgets) are immensely appealing. Their operating system, OS X, is a pleasure to look at. When the iPhone was announced, I knew it was going to be the equivalent of Naomi Campbell in the cell phone world. And I was right.

Are iPhones just too sexy to compete against them?

FSM Newsletter 12 April 2009

Microsoft has recently announced that its beloved encyclopaedia, Microsoft Encarta, will soon be discontinued. After October 31, 2009 its contents will no longer be available. Both the online version and the CD ROM version will be discontinued.

My first reaction was "what a pity". My job is to gather and publish good contents. I know how much work goes into creating and publishing material. This news must have been quite hard to digest for people who have been working on Encarta for a while. The two main questions that come to mind, however, are: "Why?", and more importantly, "What about the contents?"

FSM Newsletter 11 March 2009

When the GNU/Linux revolution started reaching the masses, around 2000, I predicted that by 2010 there would be full vendor support for the free operating system. Well, it's 2009, and I have to admit it -- I am feeling nervous. This article will outline my odyssey, the causes that triggered it, and -- for a change - a number of possible solutions. (Note: in this article I will mainly focus on third party devices such as 3G modems, cameras, MP3 players, and other "support" hardware which can be seen as "gadget".)

Interview with Liam Bennett: creating a SMS service in Australia using GNU/Linux

I am always interested when a company uses GNU/Linux to create really, really useful services. When that company is in your own town, and I get to spend time with the person who created it and made it successful, I get even more excited! Liam Bennett manages eConfirm Inc, an Australian company that offers business SMS text messaging services, based on GNU/Linux. Here's what Liam has to say about his experience with GNU/Linux and free software in general.

TM: Thank you for answering my questions, Liam. You are a boot-strapping a company using GNU/Linux. Can you tell me what you do, in simple words?

Creating a user-centric site in Drupal

A little while ago, while talking in the #drupal mailing list, I showed my latest creation to one of the core developers there. His reaction was "Wow, I am always surprised what people use Drupal for". His surprise is somehow justified: I did create a site for a bunch of strippers in Perth, strippers in Sydney, strippers in Brisbane (and Gold Coast/Sunshine Coast), strippers in Melbourne. Yes, I would classify the link quite work-safe in European standards... maybe not as work-safe in the US. I used the same template to create a site for a bunch of entertainers in Perth, a company set to use Drupal to take over the world with Entertainers.Biz (this one is work safe!).

Update: since writing this article, I have updated the system so that the whole booking process happens online. I will update the article accordingly!

A brief history of computers and free software: where is the money?

The world of computers has changed. Sub-notebooks are becoming immensely popular, mobile phones based on Google's Android software are about to come out (T-Mobile have just announced their G1 will launch on October 22), and computers are looking increasingly like small devices that fit in our pockets. The end of 2008 might see the dawn of a new revolution in the computer industry and in people's lives. Maybe 2009 will be remembered as the year when the "world went mobile". What does this mean for the (free and non-free) software industry? Where will we be, technologically and (more importantly) culturally? Where will the market (and the money) be?

How do Drigg and Pligg compare?

I am Drigg's founder and developer. Drigg and Pligg are pieces of software that will allow you to create Digg-like sites. People sometimes ask me if they should pick Drigg or Pligg. When it happens, I am not sure what I should answer. This article will hopefully solve the dilemma for most of them. Please note that I am bound to be biased here. I am an ex-Pligg users, who happened to have the both the need and the skills to create an equivalent product. I would have never forked Pligg had I liked Pligg in the first place. So... well, feel free to tell me what I got wrong with facts -- I will correct this post accordingly.

Why did Javascript/AJAX mop the floor with Java, Flash and Silverlight? Or, why open standards eventually win

It's not always true that the neatest, most advanced technology ends up winning most of the market share. There are other reasons which get in the way. Sometimes, the less advanced solutions end up winning -- and evolve in order to become more solid and established. An example of this is Javascript/AJAX, which has conquered most of the web-based client programming -- despite the fact that there were competing technologies which could (and maybe should) have easily won, purely based on technical merits. How did that happen?

More evidence of Microsoft "tying up" the Asus EeePC

The EeePC started as a niche product aimed at children. It was a huge hit, which surprised everybody -- even Asus. Microsoft noticed it, and started putting pressure on Asus . While reading around, I came across this interview with Benson Lin, which proces once more that Microsoft is tying up Asus and effectively killing the GNU/Linux version of the EeePC.

Does anybody still develop Windows applications? Or, the programming world has gone online

Steve Ballmer has recently sent a memo to every Microsoft employee. Ballmer's memo leaked really quickly (I wonder if he expected it). After swallowing the corporate-madness part (but that's allowed: he's a "mad" corporate leader after all), one particular passage really grabbed my attention. Taking about Internet applications being popular, he wrote: "But we also need to make sure developers have the .NET skills to write unique Windows applications using Windows Presentation Foundation". Which begs the question: does anybody still develop Microsoft Windows applications? Really?

Dictators in free and open source software

Some people seem to challenge the idea that most (if not all) free software projects need a benevolent dictator--that is, somebody who has the last say on every decision. They are quick to point out Linus Torvalds' past "mistakes" (see the speech marks): using BitKeeper to manage the kernel, not allowing "pluggable" schedulers in Linux, etc. As a software developer, I feel that a dictator is absolutely necessary in every free software project. Here is why.

Respect earned by the BDFL

Interview with Liran Tal, author of daloRADIUS

Hello Liran. Thank you for answering our questions! First of all, you are the main developer of daloRADIUS... What is it in very simple terms?

daloRADIUS is a web application written in PHP with the purpose to manage a RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial In User Service) deployment, suited for both WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Providers) and Hotspots.

Ian Lynch's take on the BECTA fiasco

I have recently read an eye-opening email from Ian Lynch about what happened in the UK with BECTA.

I have received his permission to republish here his thoughts. I think his email speaks volumes about what happened.

Ian Lynch's email

Fundamentally, I'm not complaining that we were not successful in the tender - I have no idea how strong the winning bid was. I'm complaining that the tender process adopted was broken. This is despite the fact that 130 MPs signed an Early Day Motion in Parliament last year censuring BECTA for procurement frameworks that block out Open Source.

The Groklaw effect hits Becta. And yes, I am coining a new term

Quite a long time ago (maybe in 2000), people started talking about the Slashdot effect. Being Slashdotted meant (and still means) that a truckload of computers online suddenly decide to access your site, because one of your pages was linked from Slashdot's home page. The results on your servers used to be disastrous. I think I ought to attempt something brave: I would like to coin a new word: the Groklaw effect.

While you can't really Groklaw a site, you can definitely Groklaw a company or a court case.

So, what is the Groklaw effect specifically?

Vienna failed to migrate to GNU/Linux: why?

Several governments and councils reported multi-year migration plans to GNU/Linux. Free software activists praised each one of them in their blogs and commentaries. However, a few months or years on, some of those plans crumbled. Vienna is one of them. A question here begs to be answered: why did it happen? The City of Vienna made several crucial mistakes. In this article, I will list the most prominent ones.

A future without Microsoft

It's June 2008, and it's not a good time to be a Microsoft shareholder or employee. The computing industry is changing very, very quickly, creating new opportunities and killing once-prosperous markets. In this short article, I will outline these changes in relation to free software and Microsoft. If you can think of more changes, or if you don't agree with some of my forecasts, please let me know!


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