Tony Mobily's articles

Interview with Eric Heikkinen of Pligg

The free software world is experiencing another legal storm. This time, the trouble doesn’t involve a big company attacking a free software project—this time, you could probably call it a “civil war”. A former contributor to Pligg (a very important free software content management system for creating digg-style sites) intends to take Pligg’s developers to court. I managed to talk to Eric Heikkinen, the co-founder of Pligg, and ask him a few questions...

TM: Hello Eric. Please tell our readers a little about yourself and Pligg.

Paper is dead - has PDF followed suit?

Note: Tony will not address comments made to this editorial. Please refer to his blog entry for more information.

When I was 14, I bought my first computer magazine. Yes, I was a late starter! What I found amazing was that, after buying my first issue, I understood pretty none of what I had read. There were terms like CPU, RAM, protected mode, driver... I had simply no idea. I was partially excused: we are talking almost 20 years ago, and back then many of those terms weren't as popular as they are now.

So, why has the PDF gone?

I am the founder of Free Software Magazine. My role has always been important, but you must keep in mind that FSM exists thanks to several key people who worked hard on this project.

My latest editorial has received countless comments about us dropping the PDFs. You can see them yourself - some of them are reasonable, while other were along the lines of "I want a PDF version, and I want it right now. If not, I will never be back to this site ever again".

Linux and its closing window of opportunity with OEMs

I am planning on changing the world with this article. I can’t do it on my own: I need your help.

Well, I must admit that changing the whole world might be a little ambitious. For now, I will settle for the “computing world”.

Right now, the following factors are true:

  • Linux has a very viable desktop and office suite—for free. OpenOffice being bloated is basically not an issue anymore, since even a basic computer today will run OpenOffice completely fine. Thanks to Ubuntu, end users can now use Linux and not notice the difference.

The proprietary world vs. Worldlabel: interview with Russel Ossendryver

I was talking to Russel Ossendryver recently, WorldLabel's owner. After exchanging a few words, and being a little shocked by what I heard, I told him "Russel,would you like me to actually interview you formally?" He was a little hesitant at first. However, in the end we decided that current events needed as much exposure as possible. So, this is a friendly private conversation that turned into an interview.

Here it is!

TM: What is Worldlabel?

Open letter to Free Software Magazine's readers: help us promote (y)our magazine!

Dear readers,

As you know, we have been working very hard over the last 2 years todeliver the best magazine ever. Now, we need your help.

We are proud of what we achieved. We now have more than 750 articles onour web site, and all of them are released under a free license. Manyarticles are key references for Linux users and developers. Right now,we feel that we are flying.

However, as I said, we need your help. If you have a blog, or if youknow somebody with a popular web site, please ask them to have a look here.

Have I already lost my bet?

I am angry. It’s not a good state to be in, and it’s definitely not healthy. However, today I just can’t help it.

The main problem is that I have a bet going on, and I feel I am going to lose it. My bet is that by 2010, more than 50% of the world’s laptop sales will have GNU/Linux preinstalled, rather than Windows.

Until a little while ago, I was feeling optimistic. However, my optimism fell after I decided that I needed a new laptop.

You’ve probably guessed already: I want a laptop with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled, and I’m having a great deal of trouble finding one.


Being the founder of Free Software Magazine means that I receive amazing (or I should say amusing) amounts of email that ask us to announce the imminent release of some fantastic project that will change the world. I always answer that I will be happy to talk about the fantastic project once it’s been launched, and I can actually see something.

Nobody ever calls back.

Even worse, when I go back and check what the project status is, I often find that the “launch” never happened, or that it did and that’s pretty much where the project stands—a few months later!

Message to the Novell executive who signed the agreement with Microsoft

Novell recently signed an agreement with Microsoft. From the press release:

Under the patent agreement, both companies will make up-front payments in exchange for a release from any potential liability for use of each others patented intellectual property, with a net balancing payment from Microsoft to Novell reflecting the larger applicable volume of Microsoft’s product shipments. Novell will also make running royalty payments based on a percentage of its revenues from open source products.

Why (most) medium sized free software projects are doomed (or, IBM said “no”)

It’s no secret that I love free software; you don’t decide to start a magazine about it and stick with it for years unpaid if you don’t. While making Free Software Magazine, I learned a lot about free software and its ecology. What I discovered was sometimes exciting, sometimes disheartening.


When I first started thinking about Free Software Magazine, I was feeling enthusiastic about the dream. I had Dave, Gianluca, and Alan willing to help me, I had established members of the free software community willing to help me out, I had writers volunteering their time and energy for free, and I had a generous offer from OpenHosting for servers, all before I'd proved myself. There was a sense of excitement in the air, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could make this work.

GIF is NOW finally free - for real, with a final Unisys joke

I am sure a lot of you remember the great "GIF fiasco": more than a decade ago, Unisys decided to make money out of the most used image file format on the Internet: the GIF format. To be more precise, Unisys announced that they would go after developers of programs able to load and save GIF files (never mind the fact that even back then there was plenty of free software which wouldn't have been able to pay).

Internet communities strike back

At the very beginning of the “commercial internet” era, around 1995, the internet was all about communities. Mailing lists and Usenets were crucial tools which allowed people with similar interests (and similar problems!) to hang out together in what was considered a fantastic virtual square.

Then, shops started showing up in this square, and... well, its inhabitants got a little distracted.

Famous in a small, small world

The world is a very big place. However, every sub-world, no matter how big it looks, is itself really quite tiny once you’re in it—and always made up by the same few “famous” people.

I was at the MOCA meeting in Italy last year. It was a fantastic experience, full of people who were really interested in computer security and were way beyond the script kiddie phase of their lives. I couldn’t walk very far without being stopped, and asked “Are you ‘the’ Merc? Like, the one in the book ‘Spaghetti Hacker?’”


I don’t like writing controversial editorials. Controversy is an effective means to get a lot of accesses: most people seem to enjoy reading controversial articles, maybe because they like torturing themselves. (And yes, I used to read a lot of Maureen O’Gara’s articles myself!). Besides, controversy is a double edged sword: there’s very little chance that I would ever go back to those sites!

And yet here I am.

What do we know?

I’ve always been interested in how our brains work. The brain is a very powerful computer, and we still don’t really know just how it really works.

As a writer and a programmer, I sometimes experience a “wow” moment. Today, I had one of them.

I am a proud Ruby programmer; Ruby saved me from Perl, and I can only be extremely grateful to Matz for creating it. I can say now that I “know” Ruby (even though I don’t really know it as well as I would like). And yet...

And yet, I don’t. At all.


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