Tony Mobily's articles

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?’”

Editorial

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.

Travel and work

I am writing this blog entry in Nicaragua. I could stay with my friend Phil, in a nice western house close to the town centre with water, 24/7 wireless internet, hot water shower, my own bathroom and toilet, and a modern kitchen. Or, I could stay with my friend Dora and her four children, who live in the outskirts of Esteli, with... well, put it this way: none of the above.

This is a sad, slightly unreal IT story

I had to spend 9 hours in Miami, waiting for a connecting flight. 9 hours wasn’t quite long enough to go out and about, but was long enough to get bored to death.

So, I decided that I would pay $7.95 for a “day pass” for the Wifi connection. The WiFi connection at the Miami airport is managed by people who don’t seem to know enough about computers to manage a home gaming LAN, let alone use Microsoft Server software for a real-life application (and, surprise surprise, nothing works).

Free Software Magazine's blogs just got better!

This blog entry is to inform you about two great pieces of news about Free Software Magazine, which involve our web site and our blog section.

First things first: we have just finished updating our web site so that it runs the latest version of Drupal. I must admit that I was waiting for the version 4.7.1 of our web site to do this: I never trust version ".0" of anything!

Editorial

The IT world has a reputation of being extremely fast-paced. And it is: an accounting program in the ’80s would have been written in COBOL. In the ’90s it would have been written with a RAD (Rapid Application Developer) environment such as Delphi or Visual Basic. In the... ’00s (noughties?), today, the same application would probably be written as a web system, possibly using all of the “Web 2.0” technologies to make it responsive and highly usable.

Interview with Simon Peter, creator of klik

It's the year 2006, and installing applications in GNU/Linux can still be a nightmare (especially if they are not available in your distribution's repository). Simon Peter is the developer of klik, a piece of software that tries to resolve this problem. Simon kindly accepted to answer a few questions for FSM.

TM: Hello Simon! Please tell our readers about yourself...

Interview with Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth is the founder of Thawte, the first Certification Authority to sell public SSL certificates. After selling Thawte to Verisign, Mark moved on to training as an astronaut in Russia and visiting space. Once he got back he founded Ubuntu, the leading GNU/Linux distribution. He agreed on releasing a quick interview to Free Software Magazine.

Interview with Orv Beach @ SCALE

SCALE (Southern CAlifornia Linux Expo) is an event that shouldn’t be missed by anybody who is serious about Linux. Let’s hear what Orv, one of the event’s organisers, has to say!

The interview

Can you explain, in a few words, what SCALE is?

SCALE is a grass-roots free software show, with an expo floor, and several tracks of presentations for attendees. By grass-roots, I mean that the focus is on educating the end user. This year SCALE is happening on the 11th and 12th of February at The Radisson Los Angeles Airport

Interview with Patrick Luby

Patrick Luby wrote the software layer which allows OpenOffice to run on Macintosh computers without running an X server. This way, OpenOffice also looks like a native application. Since OpenOffice is one of the most relevant free software projects out there, the importance of his work cannot be underestimated. Patrick agreed on answering a few questions for Free Software Magazine.

TM: Patrick, first of all: please tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do? What’s your programming background?

FSM staff launch www.fsdaily.com!

It's been just over a year and Free Software Magazine has become an authority in the free software world.

Myself (Tony), Dave, Gianluca, Alan and others worked countless hours to create Free Software Magazine from scratch, without involving venture capitalists or investors.

We can only be happy with the result: a quality magazine on free software that gets read by thousands of people each month.

Over time, we found that even though we could publish professionally edited feature articles, we couldn't cover news in real time. In regard to real-time news:

Patents Kill

On the third of September 2005, I was diagnosed with cancer—testicular cancer. The pain started during a party (Dave Guard, our Senior Editor, was there as well). In just one night, I went through a sudden and unexpected change: from being a young healthy person, full of life, and enjoying hanging out with his friends, to the ER of Fremantle Hospital being told that I may have cancer and I needed to be operated on immediately.

Book review: A practical Guide to Linux. Commands, Editors and Shell Programming by Mark G. Sobell

Mark Sobell, a best-selling UNIX author, has done it again: he has delivered yet another fantastic book which makes GNU/Linux easier to approach.

The book’s cover The book’s cover

GNU/Linux (or “Linux”, if you want to be brief and get Mr. Stallman angry) is probably the most talked about operating system in the world right now. Even though GNU/Linux can be used without ever touching the infamous command line (thanks to distributions like Ubuntu or Suse), quite a few users out there are keen to learn how to get the most out of the Unix commands available.

Let’s take care of our memory

It was late at night in Sydney. I was at John Paul’s house—the man behind MySource. We hadn’t seen each other for years, and we had spent the whole day helping his parents move house, so we did what old friends do: we talked about anything and everything. The conversation somehow turned to neural damage and freak accidents (our backs must have hurt).

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