Alan Berg's articles

Book Review: Ubuntu Made Easy

Ubuntu Made easy: A project-based introduction to Linux, published by No Starch Press, was written for the new Ubuntu user. The authors Rickford Grant and Phil Bull deliver on the titles promise with content that covers a comprehensive range of practical topics. This book rapidly describes practical recipes for the most common and a few less common home centric tasks. The authors push the new user with increasing velocity towards a detailed understanding of the Ubuntu Unity desktop.

Free e-learning software: unifying coding efforts, and admin efforts

In this article, I will talk about an exciting chain of events which brought several universities together: instead of buying different Learning Management Systems, they teamed up and started working on the same piece of software -- together. This led to the development of Sakai, a fantastic Learning Management System. I will also talk about the importance, for organisations like the Sakai foundation, to then merge with similar ones (which share similar goals) for the same reason: avoid work duplication.

Book Review: Sakai: Free as in Freedom written by Charles Severance

Sakai: Free as in Freedom, written by Charles Severance (the first Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation) is a personal view of the history of Sakai. The book is a thorough description of how the project and its software evolved. This is not a book about software configuration; it is a book that describes how a community emerged from the actions of individuals.

Book Review: The book of Inkscape: The definitive guide to the free graphic editor by Dmitry Kirsanov

Inkscape is a mature SVG vector graphics editor. You can run it on a number of platforms including GNU/Linux and Windows. It has a rich set of features and is popular and actively maintained. The Book of Inkscape: the definitive guide to the free graphics editor, by Dmitry Kirsanov is a comprehensive guide of 476 pages that describes in detail the various parts of the software. The book also includes six chapter-size tutorials that emphasis the manipulative power of this feature rich editor.

Writing a book with the help of the Sakai free software community

This article is about writing a book with the help of the free software community. The book in question is Sakai Courseware Management with the main authors being Alan Berg (Me myself and I) and Michael Korcuska, the executive director of the Sakai Foundation. In reality, around forty community members delivered valuable content, which the authors distributed strategically throughout the book.

Book review: C Programming: A Modern Approach by K. N. King

The C language, despite the best journalistic assassins, trained monkeys on bikes, an alleged lack of fashion taste, is still alive and rocking in the building. C is, beyond dispute, recognized as a resource efficient and thus valid language to use, especially for highly effective operating systems such as GNU/Linux and for device driver creation. A good starting point for learning is K N Kings popular book "C Programming: A modern approach", published by Norton, which has just reached its second edition and hence worthy of a new review.

Destroy annoying bugs part 4: the end is near

In this the last part of this four-part series I will zoom carefully into the ease of use of PMD. I totally enjoy PMD. The reason for this is the relative simplicity of writing your own bug pattern-capturing rules and using them under fire. More on that later. To round off we have included an in-depth interview with Tom Copeland, the author of PMD Applied and the newer JavaCC . It is no coincidence that Tom is at the center of the PMD development thrust.

Note: this is Part 4. Feel free to read Part 3!

Destroy annoying bugs part 3: FindBugs for large scale analysis

In the previous posts, I have written about personal use of static code reviews via a GUI, in this case Eclipse. However, for large projects with hundreds of thousands of lines of code or more, with the code base being scattered amongst project teams, we have a problem. The economics of Quality Assurance demand a more mass analyzed and factory-efficient approach. Do things quick, hit the code, find the worst bugs and repair. The white box looking out, in combination with the functional or load testing black box methodologies looking in.

Note: this is Part 3. Feel free to read Part 2!

Book Review: Ruby by Example: Concepts and Code by Kevin C. Baird

Ruby is currently one of the most fashionable and modern languages to program in. Ruby is synonymous with the Rails framework, which is a robust and deep framework used to prototype and then build stable and scalable web applications. Of course, Ruby has considerable potential in its own right. The book "Ruby by example, concepts and code" by Kevin C. Baird and published by No Starch Press will help you to learn the Ruby language via small incremental example scripts.

Destroy annoying bugs part 2: Plug me into Eclipse.

Static code reviews aimed at eating bugs (!) are unbiased and neutral. If you spill coffee on their laps or are applying for the same job as them, the advice given back will remain the same. Static code reviews work via rules; some rules are accurate in their assessment and others are not so relevant--or even false. Before building a thorough infrastructure for large-scale deployment, it is well worth installing the tool's respective plugins. You can have a lot of fun kicking the tires of the rule sets for your own particular environment. Getting your fingers into the reality of the code is the first step in the path to Quality Assurance enlightenment. Note to self, remember to ask boss for pay rise.

Note: this is Part 2. Feel free to read Part 1!

Destroy annoying bugs part 1: FindBugs and PMD doing good work cheaply

Finding bugs in your code can be quite nasty--especially if you don't know where to look. However, finding bugs automatically does not require astronaut training. I think it's time to leave that "pleasure" to free (as in freedom) automatic static code review tools like the ones reviewed in this series of articles.

Book Review: Java EE 5 Development using GlassFish Application Server by David R. Heffelfinger

The application server GlassFish supports all the most modern and juicy features of Java Enterprise Edition (EE), formally known as J2EE. Made by Sun, the server has a dual purpose as both the official application server reference for Java EE and as a viable and scalable piece of software that performs well under most conditions. David R. Heffelfinger's book "Java EE 5 Development using Glassfish", published by PACKT, follows both purposes by exploring the frameworks and the server deployment; thus the books details resonate vigorously with the spirit behind the tool.

Book Review: Professional Plone Development by Martin Aspeli

Plone is a well-known Content Management Systems (CMS). Since it's relatively easy to customize to a specific enterprises style and workflow, there is a healthy trade of services around the core software. Martin Aspeli, the book's author, is an active contributor to Plone. Heavy involvement in a project that you are writing about always bodes well for the potential value and quality of a book that you, the reader might be considering buying. Aspeli's book "Professional Plone Development", published by PACKT, proves this quality point once again.

Book Review: Perl by Example, 4th Edition by Ellie Quigley

Perl is an amazingly powerful and succinct language. Although not the most fashionable, Perl is consistent and supported on a vast range of platforms, probably even more than Java. Better still, it gets in and does the job quickly with very little fuss. Perl by Example written by Ellie Quigley and published by Prentice Hall is a comprehensive, example based, and thorough book.

Book Review: Practical Guide to Ubuntu Linux by Mark G. Sobell

Mainstream Linux distributions such as the ever-popular Ubuntu have the potential to contain thousands or tens of thousands of packages and have a wealth of supporting services activated on computer boot ups. Mark G. Sobell’s book A practical guide to Ubuntu Linux, published by Prentice Hall, describes the details of maintaining these complex structures on your own machine.

Free software Easter eggs

It is grey a dull, overcast day here in downtown Amsterdam. The weather is rather oppressive, summer’s smile long gone and my wine cellar miraculously has grown to quiet emptiness. However, I know a not too-well guarded secret. Hidden in the cracks, just at the edge of your eyesight, is extra humorous functionality in your favourite free software applications. Silent professional Easter eggs are waiting stealthily to make you smile.

Book review: Moodle Teaching Techniques by William H. Rice IV

Moodle is a well-known and widely used online Course Management System. It is based on Apache and PHP and is normally associated with a MySQL database and GNU/Linux. The application has high market penetration and recognition, especially for schools. However, no matter how good a tool is, a poor teacher will only generate painful online learning experience. Moodle Teaching Techniques published by Packt and authored by William H. Rice IV focuses on best practices for constructing learning solutions.

Book review: Linux Firewalls: Attack Detection and Response with iptables, psad, and fwsnort by Michael Rash

The stability of an enterprise-wide infrastructure depends on understanding innovative, defensive security-related software. Linux Firewalls: Attack Detection and Response with iptables, psad and fwsnort written by Michael Rash and published by No Starch Press, outlines viable approaches that enable a defensive solution in depth.

Book review: Security Data Visualization by Greg Conti

Eighty percent of input to the brain is visual, and comes directly through the eyes. We humans are incredible machines with the ability to recognize patterns instantaneously. Machine technology is not capable of matching humans, and won't be for many decades. Security data visualization translates complex data relationships into meaningful visual patterns that humans can quickly interpret. The book Security Data Visualization: Graphical techniques for network analysis by Greg Conti and published by No Starch Press answers the important and core question: can visualization help with security? The answer is a resounding "yes".

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