FSFE Newsletter – March 2014
The UK attempts to break free from vendor lock-in
The UK government is making progress towards less vendor lock-in. In January, they published a few principles for future government IT contracts. They want to break the dominance of the big software companies who provided the vast majority of software and services to the UK government.
Now they are asking for comments on the standards they should use for "sharing or collaborating with government documents". Among other things, the government proposes to make ODF the sole standard for office-type documents. The FSFE has submitted comments on a proposal by the UK government to use only document formats based on Open Standards in the future. Microsoft also submitted a lengthy comment, urging the government to include OOXML in its list of standards, to which we responded as well.
Why Open Standards aren't enough: the minimal principle
Although a good data-format can only be an Open Standard, FSFE's Bernhard Reiter argues that this requirement alone is not enough. Originally written for last year's Document Freedom Day in German, the article "The minimal principle: because being an open standard is not enough" is now available in English. In a nutshell Bernhard argues that the data-format needs to solve a problem adequately: It should be a good fit from a functional point of view, as well as on a technical level. In order to judge this, there are a number of things to consider: efficiency, maintainability, accessibility, extensibility, learnability, simplicity, longevity and a few more. Two central questions posed are: How well does the data-format solve the problem and --more interesting-- is there a simpler format that could solve the problem just as well?
Read the article, discuss it on our public mailing lists, and if you are a developer always ask yourself if it can be done simpler.
Lots of motivation for Free Software contributors
On February 14th, people all around the world followed our suggestions to express their gratitude and appreciation to Free Software and its contributors on " I love Free Software" day 2014! Blog entries, e-mails to developers, a comic, a picture by the leadership of the German Green party, an #ilovefs festival, blogs dedicated to Free Software in general and developers in particular, and a lot of microblog messages were dedicated to Free Software. We were overwhelmed by the resonance.
Contributors of Free Software projects work hard to ensure our freedom and on this day surely many of them gained new motivation. Thanks to everybody who participated in this year's #ilovefs campaign and if you have not been involved enjoy some of the many love declarations we collected.
Something completely different
- On Document Freedom Day (March 26), FSFE and the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament are organising an event in the European Parliament to discuss how cryptography can help us break the grip of the surveillance state. The draft program includes Werner Koch (of GnuPG fame, and one of FSFE’s founders), Karen O’Donoghue (Internet Society), French journalist Amaelle Guitton, and Swedish IT security expert Joachim Strömbergson.
- Free Software in the public administration: After a decision by the Parliament in the Swiss canton Bern, the government has to implement a bill which lists six measures to support Free Software in the canton's public administrations. The Canaries are increasing their Free Software usage and in Riga they are using more Free Software in children hospitals.
- Furthermore the European Parliament passed a resolution that, among other things, highlights the need for decentralised services with strong privacy protections.
- With our Free Your Android campaign, we ask developers to also publish their mobile applications in F-Droid, a Free Software repository for Android. After talking with the LibreOffice developers about it, briefly before FOSDEM they published "Impress Remote" version 2, a program to control your presentation. Thanks to Daniel Martí, Christian Lohmaier, and Norbert Thiebaud for the work.
- Fighting compulsory routers, raising awareness about "Secure Boot", a joint motion against software patents in the German Parliament, supporting a working group in the German parliament about Free Software, raising questions about Free Software in several elections, organising compliance workshops, and lots of talks and events. Read the 2013 summary from FSFE's German team.
- With the end of the support for Microsoft Windows XP, and a low adoption rate of Windows 8 it is a good time to convince people to switch to GNU/Linux. Our sister organisation FSF wants to improve online resources for helping people to achieve this, and demonstrate GNU/Linux to new audiences.
- They also published an interview with Joerg Henrichs of SuperTuxKart.
- As every year FSFE was present at FOSDEM with a booth. This year with a lot of new posters, leaflets, stickers, t-shirts, and our Fellows gave lots of talks.
- What has happened with Free Software in schools and universities? Read the new Free Software in education news.
- From the planet aggregation:
- Carsten Agger gave an interview for the Danish newspaper about software patents and the European Parliament election.
- The Fellowship group in Aarhus/Denmark which Carsten coordinates, is moving their meetings into the new hackerspace.
- Henrik Sandklef wants to better understand his students, read why he learned Haskell to achieve that in part 1, 2, and 3 of this blog series.
- Fellow Iain Learmonth reported from the Debian Med Sprint 2014 in Stonehaven, Aberdeen.
- Karl Beecher is writing a computer science book for everyone.
- Karsten made a proposal for more transparency in EU policy making.
- Having been inspired by the prospect of chat integration within Roundcube, Paul Boddie set out to install a suitable XMPP server.
- Daniel Pocock writes about about JitMeet a web application from the Jitsi team.
- Erik Albers now published his article The right to control your own devices as a requirement for privacy (in German) in his blog, after it was published in the book Snowden surveillance book by netzpolitik.
- Isabel Drost-Fromm argues that if something didn't happen on the mailing list it didn't happen at all.
- Our intern Max Mehl wrote about secure alternatives to WhatsApp (in German), covering surespot, Telegram, ChatSecure, TextSecure, and Kontalk.
Get active: Participate in Document Freedom Day!
There has been so many news about Open Standards in this edition. Do you want to help us to promote them? If so, Document Freedom Day on 26 March is a good occasion for that. Last year we had 59 events in 30 countries all over the world. This year Sam Tuke and the DFD campaign team aim for 75 events, but they need your help.
Either organise a small event or educate your friends and colleagues through other ways about Open Standards. You can now register your event or order promotional packs with new materials, including multilingual posters and leaflets, flyers, and stickers, as well as new t-shirts.
Thanks to all the volunteers, Fellows and corporate donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE