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FOSDEM 2012, Hardware Security and Cryptography, Call for Papers

FOSDEM 2012 will take place in Brussels, the heart of EU.

This is a call for talks and presentations that will take place in the Security devroom at FOSDEM 2012. Do you develop software that can do HTTPS queries? Can it use keys and certificates on a smart card? Does your service use RSA keys for signing? Can it work with hardware keys? Are you interested in protecting your private keys like Three Letter Organizations or do you want to roll your own proper PKI with a smaller than five or six digit budget? How can we make cryptographic hardware Just Work with any application that uses crypto? The devroom is the place to share experiences and learn.

Staying happy with Gnumeric: text as "text" (instead of "dates")

Gnumeric is an excellent spreadsheet application and gets a lot of use in our house. Every now and then, though, you can hear a "!Q#z$%* Gnumeric!" from me or my wife, because we didn't pay attention to cell formatting.

By default, every cell is formatted 'General', which means Gnumeric guesses what type of data you enter in that cell. Gnumeric seems to be particularly fond of dates, and strings that are definitely not dates get interpreted as dates anyway. If I enter 12/3, Gnumeric uses my Australian date format preferences and displays 12/3/2012.

5daysprofitable: A corporate web site, start to finish, in 4 hours

In my previous article, I explained that I would embark in the Herculean task of starting a company, and make it successful and profitable, in just 5 days. And by using free software.

The first piece of this complex puzzle is a corporate web site. I had mine ready in less than 4 hours, start to finish. Here is what I did.

A company, zero to operational and profitable, in 5 days with free software

Everything started with a simple question my wife asked me: you are so good at teaching, why don't you do it? Given that I will only ever work in my own term, I would have to organize everything on my own: incorporation, web site, stationery, advertising, the lot. Chiara's question was natural: well, you can do all that basically for free with Free Software, right?

Right. So, the adventure begins: the bet is that I will have a company, zero to profitable (that means with customers, bookings, etc.) in 5 days.

When the command line "grep" wins

I was working on a big website recently and faced a really tedious job in editing the content. I needed to find and replace certain words, like 'southeastern' for 'southeast', scattered over something like 140 files in half a dozen folders.

What to do? Install a powerful Content Management System with lots of menus and a global editing tool? Nope. I took the easy way out, using the tools at hand. The trick was to remember that webpages, regardless of how complicated they look in a browser, are really only plain text files.

Interview with Igor Sysoev, author of Apache's competitor NGINX

NGINX is the new start rising in the landscape of web servers. Well, it's hardly "new" -- it will soon turn 10. However, it's definitely rocking the web server world, with Netcraft showing a huge increase in usage in the last few months.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with NGINX's author, Igor Sysoev, who agreed on answering a few questions for us. So, here is a glimpse on their business model, their new 2.0 version, and more.

Abusing the word "free" in software: what's really free in the Google market and in Ubuntu's market?

I am becoming more and more convinced that the real thread to free software (and I am talking here about software released under a free license, not software that you can download and use for free) is contempt. Proprietary software is a competitor, but not a real threat. Proprietary software cannot really kill free software: no matter how many law suits you start, how many patents you file, how many pre-installed versions of Windows you have, common sense will always win. Contempt, however, the the real danger.

The next big thing in personal computing

As far as personal computing, there has been a strong shift, in the last few years, towards multimedia contents. It started with digital cameras in phones, around 2003, which is when people really started taking a lot pictures with their phones, and started using their computers to organise them. They also started using MP3 players, and having to manage their music. If pictures and music weren't big and cumbersome enough, people also started managing their movie libraries (even though today a lot of people give up and opt for a cheap satellite TV subscription from sites like http://www.saveontvdirect.com/) instead, as movies still are too big to manage for a lot of people...

The semantic web as an operating system: with users and permissions!

In the near future, the semantic web data will be precisely tagged and thus a whole lot easier to find. This will further spur the trend of the web and global society becoming tight networks that are increasingly interdependent and transparent. Do we have to sacrifice anonymity on the web in order to retain trust for collaboration? Or could we see a web emerge that functions as a kind of operating system with different users and permissions to run this global machine which we call the internet?

Creating web pages, the right way

Have you ever felt that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that your code is error-free and complies with the latest standards? In terms of programming skill, web authors are too-often seen as the bottom of the barrel (you will notice I didn't call them 'web programmers') due to the apparent forgiveness and limitations of the platform. However, they are required to cover a large array of programming expertise and, even worse, they must ensure that their code runs the same on various platforms–something "real" programmers consider a challenge.

The "bottom of the barrel" indeed!

Configure a professional firewall using pfSense

The guide will take you through the setup of the pfSense firewall with one WAN interface, one LAN interface and one Opt1-WiFi Interface.

This guide was written for Linksys, Netgear, and D-link users with no firewall or router experience. No experience is needed with FreeBSD or GNU/Linux to install and run pfSense. When you are finished, management of pfSense will be from a web interface just like any of the SOHO firewall/router appliances.

GNU/Linux and free software are unstoppable

When I first saw GNU/Linux (the kernel plus the utilities) in 1994, I was amazed. I started using GNU/Linux as a server system, rather than a desktop machine, and I just couldn't stop thinking: "This will only keep better and better. There is no limit. This is simply unstoppable. Everybody will be using this, and only this, by the year 2000". Remember that the year 2000 seemed really quite far off... and that I was being genuinely optimistic.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, is the touchpad greater than the mouse?

I was one the first people I knew to get a mobile phone (Motorola analogue flip!); but I was also one of the last to sign up for Googlemail. I am not a dedicated follower of fashion. I stand still and, sooner or later, fashion meets me coming round the other way. So, it might not come as a surprise that unlike the young turks of computing I came late to the mysteries of the ubiquitous Synaptics Touchpad. You see, I was weaned on that Faustian pact with Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), the mouse. Having endured several very unpleasant encounters with various forms of RSI in the recent past, I decided to explore the alternative therapy of the touchpad. This article is an exploration of what you can be done with it in the GNU/Linux environment, its options, utilities, graphical front ends and command line options.

Property and commons

Over at Sphere of Networks, I published a text that tries to give a simple overview of the workings of information production in the age of the internet, covering everything from free software to free culture. This article is a slightly modified version of another chapter of this text. This time I will show you how the internet enabled a new form of information production: commons-based peer productions, like Wikipedia or most free software today. What is free content and why is it so important to people collaborating over the internet?

All the C you need to know for GTK+

If you want to develop applications with GTK+, a graphical toolkit used by the GNOME desktop environment, it is essential that you are comfortable with the C programming language. This article is meant to give you a short refresher on the basics of C that you will need to know when developing GTK+ applications.

Google extensions in Firefox

I want to take a detailed look at turbo-charging the Firefox browser with an elite selection of Google utilities. Firefox has its critics and its failings, but it has now been downloaded in excess of 400 million times: and as they say “what flies eat, they can't all be wrong!” Firefox is pretty good out of the box, but everyone knows that the functionality of Firefox is extended massively by the simple addition of extensions, security issues nothwithstanding.

In this article I will talk about how to extend Firefox so that it plays better with Google.

Book review: Official Damn Small Linux Book by by Robert Shingledecker, John Andrews and Christopher Negus

Damn Small Linux (DSL) is my favourite GNU/Linux distribution. It's not the one I use the most, but to me it represents everything good in the Linux world. It's small enough to run on any old PC, powerful enough to solve most any problem. This is the distribution to use when proving just how useful GNU/Linux can be.

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