Interesting Free Software Stuff

This post originated as an email to the LLUG ( mailing list but I thought I’d stick it here too.)

I use Ubuntu on my desktop and powerpc laptop and I used Debian on web servers. As well as The Linux Documentation Project ( I’ve found a couple of web sites with a wealth of information specific to these distributions that you may or may not have heard of.

The Unofficial Ubuntu 4.10 Starter Guide

This web site details how to achieve many of the most common tasks required of a Desktop PC in Ubuntu Linux and also covers topics relevant to running a server. I’ve constantly referred to this site since I’ve started using Ubuntu.

A Debian Grimoire

I’ve only come across this one very recently but it looks great. It covers setting up a lot of the main services a Debian GNU/Linux server commonly offers including a Web Server, Mail Server, List Server Databases and Backup. I’m not sure how up to date it is and it doesn’t seem to indicate which release of Debian it most applies to. I’m assuming Woody, can anyone tell me otherwise?

New Releases
The next couple of months are going to be a very interesting time. The next six monthly release of Ubuntu codenamed Hoary Hedghog is due very soon, as is the transition of Debian Sarge to stable (finally). I believe the next version of Open Office is not too far away and slightly off topic, Apple will be releasing OS X Tiger.

Here’s a list of things in Free Software I’m currently very interested in.

Horde (
Application framework written in PHP which runs webmail and a million other things on a web server. I’m also interested in running a mail server and OpenLDAP.

Moodle (
This one’s for work, “a course management system (CMS) – a software package designed to help educators create quality online courses.”

Easy Moblog (
I’m looking to run my own weblog software for various reasons including LiveJournal ( being bought out by Six Apart. Easy Moblog looks very interesting but I’m currently looking into authentication methods when updating a web log via email.

PHPiCalendar (
I’ve been doing a lot of PHP coding around this application for a while. It’s basically an online iCalendar (rfc2445) parser which parses a calendar file published from a compatible calendar application (like Apple iCal and Mozilla Sunbird ( and displays it on a web page. I’ve been hacking it (in conjunction with magpierss into an events based content management system updateable by a non-technical user via WebDAV ( The web site is due to launch after Easter so I’ll post the link then. I’ve also recently been interested in converting XML to SQL to create a table in a database from an XML file.

Accidental Tortoise Purchase

Ever since we got back from Morocco I’ve been dying to blog about my experiences there, I’ve just not got round to it. So this is the first of (hopefully) a series of posts about my first time abroad, spending a week in Northern Africa and my experiences during my stay. Hopefully this one will cheer up poor Kazzy.

Accidental Tortoise Purchase

Quite early in the week we went round the mini zoo in Agadir and were being followed around by a zookeeper who kept letting us into enclosures with the animals so we could get a better picture, in return for a small tip (tipping is a way of life in Morocco). We got to a cage full of tortoises and there was one particularly cute baby tortoise. I pointed at it and the man went into the cage and passed it through the bars to me. I held it in the palm of my hand (did I mention it was very small) and we took photos.

I gave the tortoise back to the zookeeper, very aware that he would be expecting a tip. Usually I’d give perhaps 2-4dh but as small change seems hard to get hold of in Morocco the only coin I had was a 10dh piece. I gave it to him discretely, but perhaps a little too discretely and I think he got the wrong idea. He suddenly gestured for us to wait and then disappeared.

After standing there wondering what was going on for a few minutes the zookeeper returned with paper and a pen. This is where it started getting tricky. He appeared to speak only Arabic, I speak only English and we were trying to communicate in a hybrid language of gestures and very broken French! He started making gestures which could only be interpreted as symbolising a plane, pointing at me a lot, pointing at himself a lot and pointing at the tortoise. Then he kept saying “address, address”.

After going through all the possibilities, perhaps he wanted to visit us in England or perhaps send us news on how the tortoise was getting on, we came to the conclusion that he had in fact accepted the 10 dirham as *payment* for the tortoise and wanted my address so he could send it to me. Through the post.

Now being very aware that it is now illegal to import tortoises into the UK and bearing in mind Laura’s mum was already worried about getting through customs with some rather dodgy looking mint tea, I was quite keen not to complete the transaction. It took quite a while for us to escape!

Of course there’s every possibility that I still interpreted the situation wrongly and that he was suggesting something entirely different. I guess I’ll never know.

Edit: Here’s a photo of my very cute accidental purchase…