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Munich sticks with LiMux and free software

Limux iconOn Tuesday, Munich’s first mayor finally responded to an inquiry by the Green Party (PDF, German) about rumours regarding a possible reversion to a Windows-based desktop environment from its current Linux-based LiMux system (news passim). The response shows that there is no factual basis for the claims made by first mayor and second mayor. An evaluation of the IT infrastructure and processes is in progress.

In recent months, statements by the newly appointed mayors Reiter and Schmid (Munich has 3 mayors. Ed.) have stirred up confusion about the future IT strategy of Munich. Contrary to third mayor Christine Strobl, the first and second mayors have hinted in recent months a possible end to the use of free software within the city. However, facts were hard to obtain. The answer to the inquiry has now shed some light on the matter.

No factual basis for criticism

The mayor now admits that the often-cited waiting time needed to obtain official work mobile phone is unrelated to the LiMux operating system, but was instead caused by the fact that he was the first to demand the implementation of Apple’s iOS in the city’s IT infrastructure.

As regards the missing unified mail and calendar application criticised by Schmid, it became clear that the relevant Kolab free software solution is currently being implemented. This only started in early 2014 and is expected to be in use early in 2015.

Broad support for free software in Munich

The city’s IT department, the city council and third mayor Christine Strobl all support the current IT strategy and thus distance themselves from the criticisms of the first and second mayors. Ms Strobl emphasises that “upon careful checking” she still considers the move to free software was the right thing to do.

There’s a sound economic basis for this view: the city was able to save €11 mn. just in reduced licensing costs. The hardware costs alone of switching to Windows 7 would have amounted to €3.15 mn., with a move to Windows 8 being even more expensive, according to the city’s IT department. Furthermore, a switch would incur additional costs and mean the loss of achievements in supporting open standards.

FSFE makes vendor independence and interoperability plea

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is calling on Munich’s city council to include both vendor independence and interoperability as factors in the investigation, since they were major reasons for Munich switching to free software in the first place.

“Other European Countries such as Great Britain, France, Italy, and Sweden have made free software and Open Standards a central part of their IT strategies for the public sector in the past years. In Germany, the public sector is lagging behind. Germany’s federal and state governments finally need to take coherent action so that public institutions here, too, can enjoy the benefits of Free Software,” says FSFE President Karsten Gerloff.

Nominations open for Women in Open Source award

RedHat logoOpensource.com reports that Linux purveyor Red Hat is now accepting nominations for the Women in Open Source Award. Created to highlight the achievements women making major contributions to an open source project, to the open source community or through the use of open source methodology, this award is the first of its kind.

The award celebrates all different kinds of contributions to open source, including:

  • Code and programming;
  • Quality assurance, bug triage and other quality-related contributions;
  • Involvement in open hardware;
  • System administration and infrastructure contributions;
  • Design, artwork, user experience (UX) and marketing;
  • Documentation, tutorials and other forms of communication;
  • Translation and other internationalisation contributions;
  • Open content;
  • Community advocacy and management;
  • Intellectual property advocacy and legal reform;
  • Open source methodology.

Nominees can qualify for one of two tracks:

  • Academic award: open to women enrolled in college or university; and
  • Community award: open to all other women.

    The Women in Open Source Academic Award winner will receive:

  • $2,500 stipend, with a suggested use of supporting an open source project or efforts; and
  • A feature article on Opensource.com.

The Women in Open Source Community Award winner will receive:

  • Ticket, flight and hotel accommodation for the Red Hat Summit to be held in Boston, Massachusetts on 23rd-26th June 2015;
  • $2,500 stipend, with a suggested use of supporting an open source project or efforts;
  • A feature article on Opensource.com; and
  • Speaking opportunity at a future Red Hat Women’s Leadership Community event.

Nominations are open until 21st November. Judges from Red Hat will whittle down the nominees to a subset of finalists for both the Academic and Community awards, from whom the public will decide the winners. The winners will be announced in June during an awards ceremony at the 2015 Red Hat Summit in Boston, Massachusetts.

Introducing the anonabox

Crowdfunding site Kickstarter has announced that August Germar is currently raising funds for anonabox, a Tor hardware router that will re-route data through the Tor network for security and anonymity.

The anonabox is an open source internet networking device designed to run alongside a current home router or modem. Small enough to fit in a jacket or trouser pocket, the device directs all of a user’s internet traffic via wifi or an Ethernet cable to Tor, where his or her original IP address is hidden from prying eyes, an important privacy consideration since Edward Snowden revealed the scope of surveillance routinely carried out by the NSA in the USA and GCHQ in the UK.

August was originally seeking a total of $7,000 to take the project further, but has already raised 10 times that amount, according to Computerworld. At the time of writing the total had risen to $501,872 and the appeal for funds still had 27 days to run.

August has produced a small video to introduce the anonabox and how it works.

Kickstarter backers can reportedly secure an Anonabox for $45, a few dollars cheaper than what it will allegedly be sold for.

Free public lecture at Bristol Uni for Ada Lovelace Day

Ada LovelaceTomorrow, 14th October, is Ada Lovelace Day, an annual an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

As part of the celebrations, Bristol University is organising a free public lecture focussing on Ada Lovelace’s life and pioneering work.

Ada Lovelace – the first programmer’ by Professor Philipp Welch from the School of Mathematics, starts at 1.00 pm on Tuesday 14th October in the Merchant Venturers Building.

In addition, Bristol University’s Computer Sciences Society is holding a special event on Wednesday 15th October with talks from seven speakers to showcase the careers of women in computing and engineering and discuss the challenges women have to overcome. The Computer Sciences Society’s showcase begins at 1.00 pm on Wednesday 15th October in the Merchant Venturers Building.

Both events are free to attend and no booking is required. For more information visit the University’s Ada Lovelace events page.

Ada Lovelace was the daughter of the ‘mad, bad and dangerous to knowLord Byron and died in 1852. Her work with Charles Babbage on the ‘Analytical Engine‘ makes her an important figure in the early development of computer technology.

Ada’s mathematical notes include what is widely accepted as the first algorithm intended to be executed by a machine. Babbage was so impressed with her talents that he called her the ‘Enchantress of Numbers’.

Open Knowledge Foundation defines open

Open Knowledge Foundation logoThe Open Knowledge Foundation is doing marvellous work in the fields of open data and open content.

The Foundation has just published version 2 of its Open Definition. This definition is released under a Creative Commons Attribution licence and is reproduced verbatim below (complete with US spellings and punctuation throughout. Ed.).

Open Definition

Version 2.0

The Open Definition makes precise the meaning of “open” with respect to knowledge, promoting a robust commons in which anyone may participate, and interoperability is maximized.

Summary: Knowledge is open if anyone is free to access, use, modify, and share it — subject, at most, to measures that preserve provenance and openness.

This essential meaning matches that of “open” with respect to software as in the Open Source Definition and is synonymous with “free” or “libre” as in the Definition of Free Cultural Works. The Open Definition was initially derived from the Open Source Definition, which in turn was derived from the Debian Free Software Guidelines.

The term work will be used to denote the item or piece of knowledge being transferred.

The term license refers to the legal conditions under which the work is made available. Where no license has been offered this should be interpreted as referring to default legal conditions governing use of the work (for example, copyright or public domain).

1. Open Works

An open work must satisfy the following requirements in its distribution:

1.1 Open License

The work must be available under an open license (as defined in Section 2). Any additional terms accompanying the work (such as a terms of use, or patents held by the licensor) must not contradict the terms of the license.

1.2 Access

The work shall be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable one-time reproduction cost, preferably downloadable via the Internet without charge. Any additional information necessary for license compliance (such as names of contributors required for compliance with attribution requirements) must also accompany the work.

1.3 Open Format

The work must be provided in a convenient and modifiable form such that there are no unnecessary technological obstacles to the performance of the licensed rights. Specifically, data should be machine-readable, available in bulk, and provided in an open format (i.e., a format with a freely available published specification which places no restrictions, monetary or otherwise, upon its use) or, at the very least, can be processed with at least one free/libre/open-source software tool.

2. Open Licenses

A license is open if its terms satisfy the following conditions:

2.1 Required Permissions

The license must irrevocably permit (or allow) the following:

2.1.1 Use

The license must allow free use of the licensed work.

2.1.2 Redistribution

The license must allow redistribution of the licensed work, including sale, whether on its own or as part of a collection made from works from different sources.

2.1.3 Modification

The license must allow the creation of derivatives of the licensed work and allow the distribution of such derivatives under the same terms of the original licensed work.

2.1.4 Separation

The license must allow any part of the work to be freely used, distributed, or modified separately from any other part of the work or from any collection of works in which it was originally distributed. All parties who receive any distribution of any part of a work within the terms of the original license should have the same rights as those that are granted in conjunction with the original work.

2.1.5 Compilation

The license must allow the licensed work to be distributed along
with other distinct works without placing restrictions on these other works.

2.1.6 Non-discrimination

The license must not discriminate against any person or group.

2.1.7 Propagation

The rights attached to the work must apply to all to whom it is redistributed without the need to agree to any additional legal terms.

2.1.8 Application to Any Purpose

The license must allow use, redistribution, modification, and compilation for any purpose. The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the work in a specific field of endeavor.

2.1.9 No Charge

The license must not impose any fee arrangement, royalty, or other compensation or monetary remuneration as part of its conditions.

2.2 Acceptable Conditions

The license shall not limit, make uncertain, or otherwise diminish the permissions
required in Section 2.1 except by the following allowable conditions:

2.2.1 Attribution

The license may require distributions of the work to include attribution of contributors, rights holders, sponsors and creators as long as any such prescriptions are not onerous.

2.2.2 Integrity

The license may require that modified versions of a licensed work carry a different name or version number from the original work or otherwise indicate what changes have been made.

2.2.3 Share-alike

The license may require copies or derivatives of a licensed work to remain under a license the same as or similar to the original.

2.2.4 Notice

The license may require retention of copyright notices and identification of the license.

2.2.5 Source

The license may require modified works to be made available in a form preferred for further modification.

2.2.6 Technical Restriction Prohibition

The license may prohibit distribution of the work in a manner where technical measures impose restrictions on the exercise of otherwise allowed rights.

Non-aggression

The license may require modifiers to grant the public additional permissions (for example, patent licenses) as required for exercise of the rights allowed by the license. The license may also condition permissions on not aggressing against licensees with respect to exercising any allowed right (again, for example, patent litigation).

Reposted from the author’s blog.

Campaigners cut ties with Connecting Shropshire

switchThe taxpayer-subsidised scheme to provide better broadband in the United Kingdom has run into some difficulty in Shropshire.

The Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband has severed its ties with the Connecting Shropshire scheme led by Shropshire Council, according to yesterday’s Shropshire Star.

The campaign had been working with the council and BT to try and bring high-speed broadband to the county’s more isolated rural parts and attempt to secure a government grant of £11.38 mn. with matched funding from the council.

Campaigners had hoped initially that areas with poor coverage would be prioritised and there would be a universal commitment to more than the minimum 2Mb/s guarantee. It now appears this is not the case.

Campaign spokesman Patrick Cosgrove is quoted by the Star as saying:

After much thought, the Shropshire and Marches Campaign for Better Rural Broadband has concluded that there is little useful purpose in continuing with its membership of Connecting Shropshire’s rural broadband group.

To begin with there were high hopes that the thoughts of the members might help devise ways of identifying the matched funding for the £11.38m BDUK grant, and engage communities and other interest groups in imaginative ways of bringing faster broadband to rural communities.

We have been disappointed. Attendance at the group has been patchy, agendas pre-set, and conditions of confidentiality too inhibiting for our campaign to express its views freely.

We fear that publicity from the present broadband project will increasingly be used for political purposes.

Get online at North Somerset libraries

computers in a libraryLibraries in North Somerset are taking part in national ‘Get Online Week‘ next week between 13th and 17th October, according to a council press release.

Get Online Week is now in its eighth year and this national campaign aims to inspire people to get online and see what the internet can do for them.

At the local level, North Somerset Council will be giving people the opportunity to improve their computer and internet skills.

The events happening in North Somerset’s libraries next week are as follows:

  • Monday 13th October – Yatton Library, High Street, Yatton, 10am-noon. Come and find out how to use ancestry.com to research your family history from the library. Free coffee/tea and biscuits provided. To register your interest email yatton.library@n-somerset.gov.uk or telephone 01934 426 100.
  • Monday 13th to Wednesday 15th October – Campus Library, Locking Castle, Weston-super-Mare, 10am-noon. Learn how to get online using the ‘Learn my way’ website. Free of charge, booking essential. Email campus@n-somerset.gov.uk or ring 01934 427 427. Training provided by North Somerset Community Learning team.
  • Tuesday 14th October – Worle Library, The Maltings, High Street, Worle, 10am-1pm. Find out about support available to get online in Worle Library and sign up for training sessions. Training provided by volunteers from Knightstone Housing.
  • Wednesday 15th October - For All Healthy Living Centre Library, Lonsdale Avenue, Weston-super-Mare, 1pm-4pm. Have you been given a gadget or device recently and want to learn more about it? Or are you interested in getting a device and would like to see what’s available? To reserve a time at this free event with a volunteer from Westonworks contact 01934 426 260.
  • Wednesday 15th October – Congresbury Library, Station Road, Congresbury, 10.30am-12.30pm. Come and find out how you can use ancestry.com to research your family history from the library. Free coffee/tea and biscuits provided. To register your interest email congresbury.library@n-somerset.gov.uk or telephone 01934 426 200.
  • Thursday 16th October – Yatton Library, High Street, Yatton, 10am-noon. Come and find out about getting online using the ‘Learn my way’ website. Free coffee/tea and biscuits provided. To register your interest email yatton.library@n-somerset.gov.uk or ring 01934 426 100.
  • Friday 17th October – Weston Library, Town Hall, Weston-super-Mare, 2pm-3.30pm. Find out about free eMagazines available with your library card. No booking required, just turn up.

Parties fight it out on rural broadband

image of fibre-optic cableRural broadband is a really hot issue in South Gloucestershire (news passim), so much so that two local political parties – the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives – are currently vying in the local press as to who provided the biggest gains to residents.

Yesterday, S. Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats claimed in the Bristol Post that

Liberal Democrat councillors serving on South Gloucestershire’s Resources Committee have secured extra commitments to help improve internet access for rural residents.

The piece – written by party activists themselves – also quotes Westerleigh councillor Claire Young as saying: “while some in South Gloucestershire are now enjoying access to superfast broadband, many rural residents are stuck in the slow-lane and lucky to have access to 2 MB* per second.

Meanwhile in today’s Bristol Post, South Gloucestershire’s Tories have provided their own version (once again unmoderated. Ed.) of the same meeting, also claiming significant gains:

Conservatives voted that if certain rural communities were not serviced by Phase One of BT’s superfast fibreoptic broadband rollout plan, that they be included in Phase Two as priority. Whilst this doesn’t guarantee every house and business in each of these rural communities will get access to superfast broadband, it is a step in the right direction and shows that the Conservative rural broadband campaign has had a real impact.

Whilst both accounts apparently seem to deal with the same meeting, your correspondent is rather bemused by one fact, i.e. that the Conservatives went to a meeting of the Resources Sub-Committee, the Lib Dems went to a meeting of the Resources Committee.

Perhaps some kind, politically neutral officer from South Gloucestershire would care to enlighten us and our readers via the comments below as to whether the body in question is a full committee or a sub-committee.

Finally, a brief note to Claire Young and S. Glucestershire Liberal Democrats’ publicity team: network connections are measured in megabits (Mb), not megabytes (MB). :)

China’s Inspur forms partnership with Red Hat

RedHat logoA strategic deal has been announced between Chinese technology manufacturer Inspur and the open sourcerers of Red Hat to combine the latter’s Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 operating system with Inspur’s x86 platform products, according to the China Tech News website.

Inspur and Red Hat will become OEM partners under the agreement.

As the first step in their collaboration, Red Hat will provide full technical and service support for Inspur’s nine kinds of X86 computing products, whilst Inspur will preferentially recommend Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 operating system to its users in return. Both parties will co-operate in cloud computing, big data, storage and virtualisation services in the future.

Last year Inspur had 19% market share of the server market, ranking first in China and fifth in the global market. With an annual increase of 288%, Inspur was reportedly the fastest-growing manufacturer in the world. Red Hat has been leading the open source sector and its Red Hat Enterprise Linux has been a leading enterprise operating system since its launch more than 10 years ago.

From GNOME to Chrome

Asus have kindly lent Bristol Wireless a ChromeBox for evaluation and I’ve had a chance to put it through its paces.

ChromeBox front viewOn opening the box I was surprised by its compact form; it’s about the size of a CD case and an inch high. The boot time’s impressive, taking only a few seconds to launch the desktop. This particular model is the CN60 (now renamed M004U. Ed.), an entry level device, there are two others the i3 and the i7. That said this is still a fairly powerful tool, it has a Celeron 1.4 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB flash hard drive and 100 GB of cloud storage free for one year, after which the space will cost you £5.00/month.

My expectation was that it would be like an Android device, with which it has some similarities, such as the inclusion of the Play Store and all the Google stable of software like Maps, Hangouts, Google Plus as well as all the usual social media and other apps. I installed an RSS reader, Inoreader, that runs in the browser. The video editing software I installed also ran in the browser. Rather than installing and running standalone applications, Chrome is an application platform, although some, such as my IRC client (Circ) and my terminal, do work outside Chrome. In all, the system is more than adequate for media-rich web content. The graphics are great; scrolling through web pages and watching video are seamless.

ChromeBox back viewHaving spent the last 11 years sat at a client/server-based system (LTSP), I’ve never really been responsible for the maintenance, update and general upkeep of my work environment: that responsibility falls to the sysadmins. On the other hand, the ChromeBox updates itself automatically (the ChromeBox’s sysadmin apparently lives in the cloud!) and I found I could install the applications I needed myself instead of having to rely on anyone else. The settings are simple enough; you choose the way the browser behaves, the toolbar options, the wireless settings and the printer. What more could you need?

At one point I needed a terminal to investigate a minor problem. I found Koding, installed a VMWare (virtual machine) interface, created an account and added some tools I needed. I wondered if this device has the ability to to do more than absorbing web content and found Caret. This is a text editor for coding, so I’d say the ChromeBox potentially has creative abilities too, although these have yet to be tested in full.

Using the ChromeBox involved a shift in mindset that’s taken me a day or two to get used to. This ChromeBox system relies on cloud environments, such as Dropbox. This obviously limits its capabilities when using the machine in rural Somerset where the so-called ‘broadband’ is little more than 1990s modem speeds. In such locations the ChromeBox would be a joy to use with proper broadband.

I spend some of my time visiting businesses fixing a variety of network problems. In one office I came across a ChromeBook in use, so took the opportunity to have a chat about what it’s like using the device professionally, particularly when used with inadequate rural ‘broadband’. This particular user said: “I love it; I can’t fault it”. When working in the project’s cloud environment, the ChromeBook saves the work locally and re-syncs as soon as the network comes back up when the connection goes down.

I’ve since demonstrated the ChromeBox’s functionality to a glass blower whose workshop and shop are miles apart. He wanted a device that would access the stock spreadsheet and invoices to keep his business records in one place. Most importantly, he wanted a simple device with zero maintenance. The ChromeBox has Google Docs, Google Spreadsheet and Google drive with which many businesses are already familiar, so the transition should be simple. It remains to be seen if this device is right for his organisation but he seems confident it’ll do the job.

To sum up, I think the ChromeBox is just the job for a home entertainment centre, with a fast, rock solid internet connection you’d be hard pushed to find a better device for personal/family use, although it could also prove useful for voluntary/community projects or even a small business.