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Free software media players

Last year, while running Ubuntu, I decided I wanted to watch a video, so I opened it up in the built-in Totem player. What happened next took me back to the dark era of codecs and computing. The XviD video I was watching became pixelated, the video became out of sync; within a few minutes it was unwatchable. I dual booted back into Windows XP, opened up by trusty MPUI and watched the video with the free software XviD codecs without any issues. The experience had left a bad taste in my mouth.

Book review: Linux Programming by Example by Arnold Robbins

One positive example of a book that is ageless when measured against internet time is Linux Programming by Example by Arnold Robbins and published by Prentice Hall. Don’t let the 2004 publishing date fool you, the book is just as useful today as it was all those long, long three years ago. A C biased book on the subject of the fundamental core API’s such as file and memory management within GNU/Linux and based on the explanation of free software core commands, this is a powerful and valid helper for needy learners of the fundamentals.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

Book review: Qmail Quickstarter by Kyle Wheeler

Qmail is an old, well-written, reliable security friendly email server that has proudly stood the test of time and corrosive use. Architecturally solid, with its components divided across workflow with numerous configuration files, the beginner system administrator needs a gentle push up the slopes of learning. Qmail Quickstarter: Install, Set Up, and Run your own Email Server by Kyle Wheeler and published by PACKT has been concisely written for the learning task at hand.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

Desktop diagramming with Dia and Kivio

Don't let the simplicity of use fool you. Both Kivio and Dia, two free software diagramming tools, are very efficient at what they do. If you need to design a complex flow chart or create a no-fuss UML diagram then you could do a lot worse than to choose either of these packages. The tools have 90% of the expected functionality with only 10% of the hassle and fuss that more complex and unnecessarily feature rich proprietary diagramming tools deliver. The learning curve is small and the end result is potentially professional.

Book review: AJAX: Creating Web Pages with Asynchronous JavaScript and XML by Edmond Woychowsky

AJAX is the broadest of broad acronyms for a series of technologies that enable fashionably dynamic Web 2.0 applications. Edmond Woychowsky’s valid, technically correct and humorous book AJAX: Creating Web Pages with Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, published by Prentice Hall, plots a careful and viable path through the underlying complexity and smoke.

The book’s coverThe book’s cover

Book review: Practical Subversion, Second Edition by Daniel Berlin and Garrett Rooney

Subversion is a modern free software Revision Control System (RCS) that the Subversion community’s developers have designed from the bottom up to be more efficient in form than CVS. Subversion has a structured architecture and has other notable advantages such as the ability to function efficiently with binary files and the relatively low cost of tagging and branching. Yet thankfully, Subversion still manages to maintain a workflow similar to CVS, thus potentially simplifying the learning curve.

Book review: Pro Open Source Mail: Building an Enterprise Mail Solution by Curtis Smith

If you want to build a realistic mail infrastructure with strengthened defenses against the highly selfish spammer, then Pro Open Source Mail: Building an Enterprise Mail Solution, written by Curtis Smith and published by Apress, provids a free software approach to get you there. Based on a Red Hat platform using well-known and reliable free software, this book offers a well-rounded recipe for success. If you want Webmail, Virus checking, mailing lists, content filtering and a host of other related services for your enterprise then this is most likely the book for you.

Book review: Open Source Security Tools: Practical Guide to Security by Tony Howlett

Back in my system administration days, which were pre-broadband I set up a home network with my link to the outside world being through an ISDN router. One of my co-workers came over to the house and I showed him my network, which consisted of Unix machines (Solaris, HP-UX, Linux) and Windows (NT & 98), and a Mac, to which he remarked, “You have all the cool toys, Frankie!”

Book review: Wicked Cool Java by Brian D. Eubanks

The range of Java related libraries and frameworks are immense. It is a challenge for motivated Java practitioners to keep in contact with this constantly varying and exponentially increasing landscape. Challenging oneself with the new freshens one’s own ideas and helps the everyday programmer or hobbyist to adopt the right pose and attitude to constant learning. Wicked Cool Java, code bits, open-source libraries, and project ideas authored by Brian D.

Book review: BIRT: A Field Guide to Reporting by Diana Peh, Alethea Hannemann, Nola Haque

The creation and generation of well presented and delivered reports is a specialized profession that requires the correct skills, mentality and tools. An excellent free software example of such a tool set is the Eclipse-based Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) system for web applications.

Book review: Agile Java Development with Spring, Hibernate and Eclipse by Anil Hemrajani

The book Agile Java Development with Spring, Hibernate and Eclipse by Anil Hemrajani is a book for developers which effectively weaves an understandable lesson based on a realistic, but imaginary timesheet project. This book describes the combination of agile project mentality and Java programming and is a welcome addition to my personal library and the Java biased development audience as a whole.

Book review: Red Hat Fedora Core 6 Unleashed by Andrew Hudson, Paul Hudson

Red Hat Fedora Core currently at version 6 is a popular GNU/Linux distribution competing with the likes of Ubuntu, Knoppix and Mandrivia. With a large, active and well publicized development community via the Red Hat-sponsored Fedora project, the distribution is well balanced and user friendly with the expected applications and polish with graphically intuitive helper tools. The book Red Hat Fedora Core 6 Unleashed published by Sams and authored by Andrew and Paul Hudson reflects the many aspects of this rich platform in a grandiose 1100 pages, DVD included.

Book review: Linux® Troubleshooting for System Administrators and Power Users by David Carmichael, et al

Imagine, if you dare, the deep seated nightmare of any decent law abiding Linux system administrator. It is late at night and the wind is howling mightily outside, the network is down due to a maintenance slot and your beloved enterprise wide system X, Y or Z fails to reboot after patching the kernel. What do you do next? Well, one might consider grabbing a troubleshooting book off a near to hand shelf. Linux® Troubleshooting for System Administrators and Power Users may fulfill this primordial fear abating function.

Book Review: The Book of Qt 4: The Art of Building Qt Applications by Daniel Molkentin

The K Desktop Environment (KDE) is built on the QT GUI toolkit. QT is more than a set of widgets: it has evolved over the last few years into a high quality cross platform application development environment with a rich set of tools and utility libraries. "The Book of Qt 4: The Art of Building Qt Applications", written by Daniel Molkentin and published by No Starch Press, thoroughly describes in exquisite detail the main widgets, algorithms and utility libraries (as well as tools such as the QT designer) needed during the application creation cycle.

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