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FSFE Newsletter - December 2012
UK: Small and major steps towards more Free Software
On 7th November, several political candidates standing in the Manchester Central By-election participated in the "Manchester Digital Debate", organised by our UK coordinator Sam Tuke and the Open Rights Group (ORG). The event is part of FSFE's "Ask Your Candidates" campaign, which aims to provide an opportunity to engage (local) politicians with digital concerns that they typically do not address.
Besides these important steps at the local level, last month the UK government has released a new Open Standards policy. In future all UK Government bodies must comply with the Open Standards Principles or apply for an exemption.FSFE welcomed this step, and particularly its strong Open Standards definition. It also includes another long-standing FSFE demand: to take into account the software exit costs. From now on, when UK government bodies buy a software solution, they have to consider in the price a calculation of what it will cost them to get out of this solution, in the future. This means that government bodies could not simply avoid buying Free Software solutions because they are locked into one particular vendor's proprietary file formats. FSFE president Karsten Gerloff analysed the new policy in detail.
Secure Boot: FSFE welcomes German Government's White Paper on "Secure Boot"
We want to make sure that you are in control of your computing. This control is, currently, restricted by "Secure Boot". On 19th November, as the first government, the German Ministry of the Interior published a white paper about "Trusted Computing" and "Secure Boot". The white paper states that "device owners must be in complete control of (able to manage and monitor) all the trusted computing security systems of their devices." This has been one of FSFE's key demands from the beginning of the debate. The document continues that "delegating this control to third parties requires conscious and informed consent by the device owner".
Another FSFE demand is also addressed by the government's white paper: Before purchasing a device, buyers must be informed concisely about the technical measures implemented in this device, as well as the specific usage restrictions and its consequences for the owner: "Trusted computing security systems must be deactivated (opt-in principle)" when devices are delivered. "Based on the necessary transparency with regard to technical features and content of trusted computing solutions, device owners must be able to make responsible decisions when it comes to product selection, start-up, configuration, operation and shut-down." And "Deactivation must also be possible later (opt- out function) and must not have any negative impact on the functioning of hard- and software that does not use trusted computing functions."
Though all of what the German Government stated, should be self-evident, unfortunately it is not. FSFE will continue talking to other governments about this issue, to improve their understanding of the political and economic consequences of this technology.
German Cities: Two good news and a bad one
First the bad news: The city of Freiburg has decided to switch back, from OpenOffice.org, to Microsoft Office. The study they based their decision on was published one week before the decision, which we and other Free Software organisations had criticised before. Unfortunate news, but as IBM's Rob Weir wrote in his article in the Free Software community we tend to look at the bad news, and forget about the good news.
So, some good news: on the one hand, the City of Leipzig has just migrated 4200 working stations to OpenOffice (DE), and on the other hand, Munich announced they are saving over 10 Million Euro with Free Software. If you want to be updated with good news from the public administrations in Europe, the European Commission's Join-up Portal is a good place to check out.
Something completely different
- LWN has a good summary of Karsten's talk "All watched over by machines of loving grace", which is about society, power, and control. Besides, Karsten recommended the German authorities to publish the code of mobile phone apps.
- Our Finnish team coordinator Otto Kekäläinen and the Danish hacker Ole Tange received the 2012 Nordic Free Software Award. With this recognition, the Swedish Association for Free Software and Free Culture (FFKP, Föreningen Fri Kultur och Programvara) honours people and projects who have made important contributions to software freedom. Congratulations Otto!
- "Fuck you, this is my culture!". This statement ended Amelia Andersdotter's (Swedish Pirate Party) speech at the Internet Governance Forum wearing a European Parliament Free Software User Group (EPFSUG) t-shirt.
- Matija Šuklje, Jürgen Kneissl, Peter Bubestinger and Martin Gollowitzer (all FSFE) were interviewed by Radio Orange about Free Software, software patents and other connected topics. In 2010 Radio Orange was awarded with the German Document Freedom Award, because they provide OGG Vorbis for all their radio shows.
- Also on software patents, Richard Stallman wrote an interesting article on the WIRED, suggesting to change the effect of patents: "We should legislate that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement."
- Former KDE president Aaron Seigo pleads to end the cults of personality in Free Software.
- Mark Lindhout published the default Fellowship blog theme Pome on his Github account, and invites everyone to contribute!
- Do you remember the time of the browser bundling? Or the Samba antitrust case? You might also enjoy XKCD's comic strip named "Microsoft".
- From the planet aggregation:
- Looking for a self-made Christmas present for your grandmother? What about a one button audiobook player? Michael Clemens described how he build such a device with a Raspberry Pi for his 90 year old Grandma.
- FSF begins to accept scanned copyright assignments from Germany. [Update: Removed one link]
- Erik Albers wrote about his experience with Ubuntu running on a Nexus 7 while he and Torsten Grote gave a Free Your Android workshop at SFSCON in Bolzano. Albert Dengg gave talks in Austria, and in our upcoming events you will find upcoming Free Your Android related events.
- Otto wrote about the WOW effect, and a wishlist for future mobile devices while Henri Bergius wrote an extensive blog post about Jolla's Sailfish OS".
- How to open computed tomography (CT) scan pictures (DICOM)? Our president, Karsten Gerloff, broke his foot just for you to find out.
- What can you learn out of the Skolelinux pilot in Rhineland Palatinate? Guido Arnold wrote a summary about Kurt Gramlich's in English, so more people can learn what happened after the first euphoria and the reasons why the pilot may be considered a failure.
- There were several reports from events: Erik Albers organised the Free Your Android workshop during FSCONS, where Fellow Bjarni Einarsson rescued an (almost) bricked phone. Ana wrote about her high expectations to FSCONS and how a perfect weekend looks like.
- Isabel Drost wrote 11 reports about the ApacheCon Europe,
- Mirko Böhm reported (in German) about the summit of Newthinking (day 1, and day 2), and about our workshop at an event from the Green party about Internet Policy.
- And finally, read Leena Simon's blog post to find out why South Park failed on copyright.
Get active: New year, new donations
It is the end of the year, and like FSFE's financial officer Reinhard Müller your editor would like to start 2013 with a good money buffer. So this month, please help us to fill our war chest:
- If you are not yet a Fellow, please join now and support us with your donation.
- Check out our support programs to find out if the webshops you already use for your Christmas shopping are listed there, and install our plugins. (If you need some suggestions for books, take a look at your editor's recommended books about Free Software.
- And please convince your employer to support us, and join our list of donors. (If you do not want to talk to your employer on your own, please contact us, and suggest whom we should talk to.)