Tony Mobily's articles

Zenoss: a great system monitoring program which tries to do everything right

I was happily hanging out in the sysadmin room of a major ISP around here in Western Australia (no, I wasn't meant to be there, if you really want to know!). Steve, the senior sysadmin in charge of the place, showed me a computer screen (running Vista, but I won’t comment on that) and said "Oh yeah, I'm sure you know about this...". "Yeah, I know Google maps" I answered. He looked at me embarrassed. "Err... actually, we use Zenoss server monitoring here... look close. That's our VPN!" It was a map of their server in Australia.

Interview with Dave Mohyla, of DTIDATA

Dave Mohyla is the president and founder of, a hard drive recovery facility based in Tampa, Florida.

TM: Where are you based? What does your company do?
DTI Data recovery is based in South Pasadena, Florida which is a suburb of Tampa. We have been here for over 10 years. We operate a bio-metrically secured class 100 clean room where we perform hard drive recovery on all types of hard disks, from laptop hard drives to multi drive RAID systems.

Bill Hilf’s interview with InformationWeek explained

I recently read an interview with Bill Hilf [1] (thanks to a link from Groklaw).As I read it, I realised that it needed clarifications to anybody left wondering whether Mr. Hilf’s answers are indeed objective. This article will go through the most interesting questions and answers, and will try to clarify some important points

So, why, why do people and companies develop free software?

More and more people are discovering free software. Many people only do so after weeks, or even months, of using it. I wonder, for example, how many Firefox users actually know how free Firefox really is—many of them realise that you can get it for free, but find it hard to believe that anybody can modify it and even redistribute it legally.

When the discovery is made, the first instinct is to ask: why do they do it? Programming is hard work. Even though most (if not all) programmers are driven by their higher-than-normal IQs and their amazing passion for solving problems, it’s still hard to understand why so many of them would donate so much of their time to creating something that they can’t really show off to anybody but their colleagues or geek friends.

Sure, anybody can buy laptops, and just program. No need to get a full-on lab or spend thousands of dollars in equipment. But... is that the full story?

Book review: Writer for Writers by Dmitri Popov is a fantastic office suite, finally undermining Microsoft’s monopoly on Office-like software (word processing, presentations, etc.). Out of all of the programs, Writer is by far the most used: writing a document, a letter, or anything else is definitely more common than writing a presentation. This book is all about’s Writer.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

Interview with Clement Lefebvre

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of interviews with major GNU/Linux distribution lead developers. This interview is with Clement Lefebvre the lead developer of Linux Mint and he talks with me about his project, development, the community, and his views on free vs open source software.

TM: Clement, first of all please introduce yourself to our readers! Where are you from? What do you do?

Interview with Jeff Starkweather, Chris Buechler and Scott Ullrich

Centipede Networks has recently entered a partnership with BSD Perimeter to offer commercial support for two important free software projects, pfSense and m0n0wall. I had a chance to talk to Jeff Starkweather (CEO of Centipede Networks), Chris Buechler (BSD Perimiter’s CTO) and Scott Ullrich (Chief Architect at BSD Perimiter).

TM: Hello everybody, and thank you for answering my questions! Jeff, Chris, Scott please introduce yourselves and your companies to our readers.

Winning the OpenDocument vs. OpenXML war

In August 2005 Peter Quinn, now retired Chief Information Officer of Massachusetts, decided that OpenDocument was the best way to store documents with the guarantee that they would be able to be opened 10, 30, 50 years from now. For a state government, this is particularly important. He led Massachusetts toward OpenDocument and The move, which sparked controversy and ferocious lobbying, is likely to end-up in history books (and while we’re at it, I’ll mention that history books in particular ought to be accessible 50, 100, 1000 years from now!).

Interview with Joshua N Pritikin

Joshua N Pritikin has recently started a peer-review service based on free software he developed. Being the editor of a magazine about free software, the idea immediately intrigued me. So, I asked Joshua a few questions. Here are his answers.

TM: Hello Joshua. You’ve been involved in the free software community for quite some time... please introduce yourself to our readers!

Interview with Brian Jones

I had the pleasure to work with Brian Jones, renowned free software technical writer, last year when I was working on TUX Magazine. We met again by accident recently and, while talking with him, I asked “What about an interview?” Well, here it is!

TM: Hello Brian. Many of our readers already know your name and have read your articles or book. Can you briefly introduce yourself?

Interview with Jake McGraw @ Innovation Ads

As some of you know, I developed the Karma module for Drupal. You can see it in action right here, in Free Software Magazine, when you “vote” for (or against!) other user’s comments. While I know Drupal quite well, I must say that my Javascript skills are quite poor. I developed what I could, and then got stuck. So, I ended up asking for help in the JQuery mailing list, explaining what I was doing, and what I needed. The response was immediate, and extremely helpful. I ended up working with Jake McGraw, on the other side of the world.

Free Software Magazine pays for articles!

We started Free Software Magazine about 3 years ago with two goals in mind: publish fantastic articles about free software, and pay people to write good articles. We believe we managed to reach the first goal. As far as payment, it took us a lot longer than expected.Our authors right now get a book from one of our sponsoring publishers. But, before now, we never managed to pay cash for articles.

This has finally changed.

Free Software Magazine now officially pays for articles. I shamelessly admit that I am writing this sentence with intense satisfaction.

Interview with 3fn

As you may have noiced, we have recently changed our hosting service. Changing provider can be difficult—I had to effectively install a brand new server, and move all the data and configuration across. It was a time consuming and risky move: we had never dealt with 3fn before and, as far as we knew, the move could have been a disaster. After 2 weeks with them, I can honestly say that I am deeply impressed. This interview was not part of the deal we had with them—it was my own initiative, after seeing just how fantastic they were.


The desktop computer is not dead, but it’s doomed. Laptops are not dead, but they are doomed. And our mobile phones are going to kill them... sounds unlikely? Well, please read on—and let me know what you think. People have predicted the death of the desktop computer and the death of the laptop many times. These death sentences have often sounded like those religions which predicted the world would end by the year 2000—then the year 2000 came, and the end of the world was then rescheduled for 2004—then 2004 happily came and went—and so on.

Interview with Steve Lake of Raiden's Realm

I had a chance to talk to Steve Lake, at Raiden’s Realm. After a few words, I could tell that the project he was engaged in was very interesting, so I interviewed him...

TM: What is Raiden’s Realm?

RR: We’re a community of people interested in technology, both hardware and software. We help each other survive our computers and we have fun talking about gaming, anime, HDTV, etc. All the “tech geek” topics plus the occasional chile recipe. :) We have a diversified group of members ranging in age from the early teens to the 50 and over crowd.

Interview with Christian Fernandez, of Binary Freedom

The growing international population of free software activists are dedicating their personal time and energy on a collaborative project that aims to raise awareness for the social and technological values of free software. One of them is Binary Freedom. I talked to Christian Fernandez, who is one of the coordinators. Here are his answers.

TM: What is Binary Freedom?

Interview with Arturo "Buanzo" Busleiman, developer of Enigform

In most industries, innovation comes from big companies that invest large amounts of money in equipment and research. The IT industry is different: the only real investment is a PC—and copious amounts of time necessary to study and research. (Without free software it could have been a very different story today, since we could live in a world where you couldn’t program without forking out several thousands of dollars just for a compiler. Does anybody remember how much the first version of Visual C++ cost?)

In computers, the most important leaps forward are often made by single (outstanding) individuals. I’ve had a chance to talk to Arturo "Buanzo" Busleiman, who wrote Enigform. If Enigform becomes a standard, it could change the way everybody logs onto their internet banking sites and more. He’s the best person to talk about Enigform... so, here he is.

Welcome to Free Software Magazine—again!

As many of you already know, I founded Free Software Magazine in 2004. The idea was to create a printed magazine about free software. Our focus was on the paper version, and therefore the website was somewhat neglected. The way the magazine evolved showed us that that initial decision was a mistake. People clearly didn’t want another paper magazine—the popularity of our web site, and the lack of interest in the paper magazine, showed clearly that we needed to focus more on the online audience.


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