Terry Hancock's articles

Book review: Web Mapping Illustrated by Tyler Mitchell

When I started Anansi Spaceworks in 2001, we were keen to create an interactive online browser for the planetary maps that we sold at that time, but didn’t know how to do it. With this book though, I’m tempted to try it again just for the fun of it! Whatever your interest in maps is, this book will help you out.

A straightforward introduction to creating interactive mapping sitesA straightforward introduction to creating interactive mapping sites

Book review: Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress

Three books in one, covering popular community building softwareThree books in one, covering popular community building software

Increasingly, the World Wide Web is not about static information pages, nor even dynamic web applications, but the process of creating and maintaining communities and collaborative efforts. Three of the most popular tools for developing such sites are presented in this new book from Apress.

This book is really three small books bound into one volume, as each software package is dealt with in a separate part of the book, apparently by separate authors

The contents

Some briefs for this week

Cool Stuff

Among other things I’m also a news editor at Linux User and Developer, and so I have to sift through a lot of material every week. In the process I find news, and a lot of “not news”. Some of the “not news” however is still interesting though, and I want to link to it somewhere—so here’s some free software goodies (and baddies) appearing on the web this week:

From O’Reilly’s xml.com:

Thoughts on the “One Laptop Per Child” project

Sometimes first impressions are totally wrong. Other times, they turn out to be right—usually by complete coincidence. My first impression of the “$100 Laptop” idea developed and promoted by Nicholas Negroponte and colleagues at the MIT Media Lab is that it’s brilliant. Since then, I’ve heard a lot of criticism, and I think some of it is justified. In the end though, I still think it’s brilliant. Maybe it isn’t the best plan imaginable and maybe the agents making it happen aren’t doing it “all for the right reasons”, but in the end, those are trivialities.

Book review: Deploying OpenLDAP by Tom Jackiewicz

For years I’ve had two to five computers around the house, with a variety of accounts for myself, my wife, and now my kids, not to mention a couple of special management accounts. Manually configuring these systems can be pretty tricky, because we’ve never installed any kind of central system for controlling users and passwords. We just try very hard to keep the UID numbers the same on all the different computers (which annoys my wife, because she’s the “second user” even on her own computer).

I'm finally learning procmail

The truth is, I never learned much about email, nor really ever wanted to. I’ve been using it since the 1980s, and for most of that time, it just worked. So I took it for granted, just like the telephone. I spent lots of time learning how web pages work, for example, probably because that was new and exciting and visual. But not email.

Well, no longer.

Secret standards

Is it an oxymoron, or just moronic?

In the free-wheeling world of free software, we are accustomed to free standards, published freely, defined by freely distributable (if not necessarily freely-modifiable) standards documents. So the idea that an industry group should get together behind closed doors, come up with a data interchange standard and then bury it by copyrighting the specification for that standard, making it available only from a single source, and charging outrageously high prices for the right to read it seems utterly mad to us!

Free art and copyleft conflicts 2: The rationalizations strike back

To re-cap, the problem is that I have a project which (at least formerly) used the now-defunct “Design Science License”. I want to go forward with a more widely accepted license, probably a dual “GPL + CC By-SA” license for the game. This would allow the inclusion of game content in either GPL or By-SA projects.

Book review: The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition by John H. Terpstra and Jelmer R. Vernooij

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for quite a few years, you’ve probably heard of Samba, the free software server that provides Windows networking compatibility. For new users coming from a Windows networking environment who want to avail themselves of all the advantages of free software server platforms, Samba is the ticket, and the ticket to Samba is good documentation.

The Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd EditionThe Official Samba-3 HOWTO and Reference Guide, 2nd Edition

Free art and copyright conflicts

In 2000, I was a much more naive person when it came to both free software and the legal environment in which it exists. To be fair, I suppose I was far from alone.

At that time, the idea of applying free licensing to artwork was pretty new (the Creative Commons hadn’t really built up much steam, even if they did exist, which they probably did, but I can’t remember). There were a lot of theories about the reasons why it was hard to motivate artists to use free licensing, perhaps because an awful lot of people were still fuzzy about why programmers did it.

Hello!

Well, I’ve never kept a “blog”, and I’m still trying to decide whether I can tolerate the name, or feel compelled to insist on “weblog”. In any case, though, I think it is appropriate to provide a first post which tells a little bit about me, so that in the future, people can refer to it.

Book review: Samba-3 By Example, 2nd Edition by John H. Terpstra

Humans often learn best by example, and the Samba documentation team has responded with this very admirable collection of example Windows networking projects with Samba. I liked the design of this book, and although you will obviously need to access the Samba-3 howto for reference purposes, I would personally recommend buying this one and reading the howto online, if you must choose. This is essentially a cookbook, but it also has a consistent context which makes the examples hang together.

Samba-3 By Example, 2nd EditionSamba-3 By Example, 2nd Edition

Reducing the risk of risk

US bankruptcy law has hitherto been fairly liberal, allowing people to restart their lives after a financial collapse by legally eliminating debts and leaving the individual with sufficient resources to rebuild. Entrepreneurs, finding traditional business capital difficult to obtain during the critical seed phase when their ideas have not really been proven, have been willing to take that risk of personal financial failure in the name of pursuing new and risky innovative business plans—just the kind needed in a society whose status quo is not sustainable.

Skinning XMMS with BuildImage and Skencil

XMMS is a very nice program for playing music, but the default skin that comes with it is, well, “functional”. Fortunately, though, the program uses the same skin files as WinAMP 2.0 (several other programs use these skins as well, which I’ll call simply “AMP2 skins”). A “skin” is just a collection of images used to create the appearance of an application such as a music player (Figure 1).

Figure 1: XMMS unskinned (left) and with the default BuildImage Skin (right)Figure 1: XMMS unskinned (left) and with the default BuildImage Skin (right)

Free file formats and the future of intellectual freedom

So far, proprietary formats have been maintained through a number of short-term tricks, but the advantages of free formats become clearer in the long run. Business and the computer industry have tended to be very shortsighted. However there are some important classes of technically proficient users with a much longer outlook, whose needs can only be met by free file formats. If we in the free software community want to see free formats take hold, we need to address the needs of these users.

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