Newsletter

FSFE Newsletter – November 2014

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Munich: facts harder than fiction

The city of Munich runs Free Software on more than 15.000 workplace computers and has saved over 11.000.000€ in return. During the migration to Free Software, they consolidated their heterogeneous IT in 51 places with 1000 IT employees and 22 IT departments. Despite these challenges most users are happy with the migration and say they do not want to switch back (in German). And all of this happened in the front-yard of Microsoft's German headquarters.

If you do not like the success of Free Software in Munich, what could you do? You could play on emotions and spread rumours that the Munich IT people are not taking the demands of regular users nor the executive into account. Of course, you have to stay vague, hoping to bring out a few of those voices that are always unhappy - but this is an easy way of discrediting the progress already made. This is what happened in the last months in Munich with remarks by the new mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD, Social Democrats) and his vice Josef Schmid (CSU, Christian Democrats). Some commentators have speculated about a connection to the fact that Microsoft is now moving its headquarter from Unterschleissheim to Munich, and Reiter claiming that he helped with this deal (in German). As Microsoft was the biggest tax payer in Unterschleissheim (in German), Munich will financially benefit by this move.

But they seem to have underestimated the success of Free Software in Munich. IT experts from their own political parties raised their voice to correct them and others have uncovered their misleading statements. Thus, the comments by the mayors represent only individual opinions. Munich's political support for GNU/Linux is strong, and the money the city saves and will continue to save by using GNU/Linux, LibreOffice/OpenOffice, and the Desktop from KDE counts profoundly. If Free Software can even survive a smear campaign by the mayors it shows that it is there to stay. Dear Free Software community: be proud and spread the word! But do not rest, the next attack will be more subtle.

EU wide Open Standards policy

But the answer to the inquiry includes another crucial point: the problem with document formats. The Munich IT managers noted that, at the beginning of their migration, the German federal states and the federal government highlighted the importance of Free Software and Open Standards, but afterwards never consequently went this path.

In Germany, the lack of a clear Open Standard Policy is a major blocker for public administrations to use Free Software. In recent years, other European Countries such as Great Britain, France, Italy, and Sweden have done more to promote Free Software and Open Standards.

On the European level, the former Munich mayor asked the European Commission to implement two measures to enable participation with Free Software in EU projects: First to have all document templates which are available in Microsoft Office formats, also in Open Document Text (ODT) format. Second that all presenter notebooks in the EU institutions also have a program installed which can handle Open Document Presentation (ODP) files. This was in 2011 and the European bodies have neglected implementing Open Standard policies for a long time.

Open Standard compliance checks

When institutions decide on Open Standards policies, this is just the first step. It is important to check this decision and to remind them about it. In 2010 as a Document Freedom Day activity our Fellows in Cologne and Bonn checked the German federal administrations after a decision that they have to be able to receive, edit, and send back ODF. The FSFE found out that only 2 of 87 departments are conforming to federal open document regulations. This highlights the importance of being persistent and monitoring the implementation of such policies. Check out this month's “Get active” item with a specific suggestion how you can help with that within a few minutes.

Something completely different

Get active: Fix my document - ODF in EU bodies

The EU institutions still have a lot to do to remove barriers for Free Software users. Together with Open Forum Europe (OFE) your editor had a meeting with the IT responsible of the Commission, the Council, and the Parliament about that. We discussed our letter on video format and the campaign “FixMyDocuments.eu”. This campaign was started by OFE to help EU institutions to implement their decision to support Open Document Formats FSFE's volunteers already translated the website in more languages, but now it is time for all of you to act.

We would like you to find EU institutions who offer non-free formats on their website, without also publishing those documents in ODT, and then submit them.

Furthermore OFE encourages and will support anyone who wants to use the platform to cover other administrations.

Thanks to all the volunteers, Fellows and corporate donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE