Democracy And FLOSS

Sign at a conference on eGovernment:

“Accountability + Transparency = Democracy”

How can you have transparency with non-Free software running the system when you can’t see the code? How can there be accountability with non-Free software when you can’t see the code? These things are about more than source code, but to really start being accountable and transparent, the code has to be trusted by everyone. Only opening the code can do that. Free Software is also about the rights of the user of the software. Non-Free software always restricts what a user can do with his own hardware and how a user uses the software on his hardware and the information therein. FLOSS acknowledges the ownership of the hardware and data. For real democracy, governments and citizens should use Free Software, FLOSS, Free/Libre Open Source Software. Nothing else will do.

For one source of Free Software see the Debian organization. They have many thousands of Free Software packages for just about any purpose of government or citizens.

See Modernizing Public Action through Open Data, Open Government, and Dat….

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Six Years Of Desktop GNU/Linux In Europe

Europe is a very interesting place for GNU/Linux desktops because governments are cooperating to share the joy.
The result is multiple nations have governments at various levels actively migrating to GNU/Linux on server and desktop. Recently, ChromeOS, another GNU/Linux desktop not included as GNU/Linux by StatCounter, is making a move. While these trends are positive, they still have not eliminated the chief bottleneck for GNU/Linux, space on retail shelves.

Nevertheless, any widespread move towards familiarity with GNU/Linux by governmental employees will spread to the general population, particularly through schools. Familiarity by politicians and judges could well ease the acceptance of FLOSS and promote critical views of non-Free software.

Norway has long used GNU/Linux in schools and has the highest share of page-views by GNU/Linux at 3.6%. Norway is not an impoverished nation desperately trying to save money using FLOSS, with the fourth highest GDP per capita in the world, $100K. They do want IT that works for them. So do Czech Republic (2.97%), Spain (2.77%), Germany (2.47%), Italy (2.23%), Finland (2.22%) and France (2%) … Mindshare is growing and expanding to all European countries.

The European country with the lowest share of page-views for GNU/Linux is Denmark at 1%. M$ bullied Denmark over “software patents” and OOXML… I would bet the resentment there is growing. Indeed there were several consecutive weekends where some large organization rolled out GNU/Linux. Signs of life.

See Top 7 Desktop OSs in Europe from July 2008 to Oct 2014.

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Look What Happened To Some Of Those XPed Netbooks

One school district that bought netbooks with XP was having no joy“Students like the faster speeds of the centralized desktop, which runs with 50 percent more RAM and a 33 percent faster processor than any of the netbooks. Boot-up and log-in are complete in 75 percent less time, saving 20 minutes a day which adds up to 60 hours per year, equivalent to about 10 days of learning time. And students all have access to the same applications—many of which wouldn’t run on some of the netbooks before.” so they put GNU/Linux on them and used them as thin clients. Now they get the speed of the server and can have major changes to the software done overnight. That’s how IT should be, fast and efficient. It can happen thanks to FLOSS. Instead of buying newer faster machines, a change of software was all that was required and they saved a bundle.

TFA, linked below, was about thin clients in schools but it appeared in a business-oriented publication…

See School District Uses Stratodesk NoTouch to Repurpose PCs and Save $136,000 on VDI Thin Client Costs.

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The Low Country Aims Higher

The government of The Netherlands is waking up to the cost of non-Free software. A report on “failed” IT projects includes the following conclusions:
“c. The cost savings and societal benefits of ICT policy in general must be made visible. A summary of the amount of taxpayers’ money saved through the ICT strategy, the open source policy and the expansion of digital government should be included in a separate chapter in the annual report of the central government’s operations.
d. The government has already decided to choose open source and open standards wherever
possible. However, this policy is still not being implemented sufficiently in practice. This needs to change: not only can this approach bring about enormous cost savings, but also opens the door to criticism and dissent.”

The Netherlands, alone, has seen billions of Euros squandered each year due to failed ICT projects. It is so easy to sign a cheque and hope problems will disappear but that abstraction allows a lot of waste such as paying for permission to run computers the government owns outright. By using FLOSS a huge slice of costs is eliminated. Better management will take care of the rest but opening ICT projects to competition surely reduces costs and promotes local businesses boosting GDP and tax-revenue. ICT that is a revenue generator rather than a cost is the pot of gold for governments everywhere. ICT should not be a conveyor-belt of money flowing to M$ and “partners”. That’s not the purpose. Finding, modifying, creating and distributing information as efficiently as possible is the only valid justification for money spend on ICT.

See Conclusions and recommendations of the Dutch temporary committee on government ICT projects

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Italian Freedom Comes Through A Door Opened With The Thin Edge Of The Wedge

I love it. After the ruling of the high court in Italy that consumers should not have to pay for software they don’t want bundled on PCs, “FSFE, ADUC and ILS have sent a letter to the Italian competition authorities, calling on them to ensure that vendors will comply with the High Court’s decision, and respect the rights of their customers.”

Yes! I wrote such a letter years ago to Canadian Competition Bureau and was rebuffed for lack of standing, as if being Canadian was not enough. Let’s hope the Italians have more sense.

See Italian consumers shouldn’t have to pay for software they don’t want – Letter to Regulators.

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Bye-Bye Software Patents

The nonsensical software-patent that USA has tried to foist on the world, destroying motivation to innovate and taxing true innovation,“back in January, art units at the USPTO rejected applications based on Section 101 of US Patent law only about 24% of the time. Section 101 covers what is patent eligible, and was the key part in the decision in the Alice case. Effectively, in the Alice ruling, the Supreme Court said that just doing something on a generic computer wasn’t patent eligible under Section 101. Following that ruling, in July, the rejection rate jumped to 78%. Yes, from 24% in January to 78% in June.” is going down the drain. USPTO is rejecting most such applications and invalidating many already issued. In a few years we will wake up an all the trouble M$ and others have caused the world will just be a fading memory.

See Good News: US Patent Office Now Rejecting A Lot More Software Patents.

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Fallout From Munich

The newly elected mayor of Munich and some of his buddies have raised a furor by suggesting Munich migrate back to M$’s clutches.“The city’s IT department, the city council, as well as third mayor Christine Strobl, support the current IT strategy and thus distance themselves from the criticisms of the first and second mayor. Strobl emphasises that "upon careful checking" she still considers the switch to Free Software as the right thing to do.
She has a sound economic basis for this view: Due to reduced licensing expenditures alone, the city was able to save 11 million Euro. The hardware cost alone of switching to Windows 7 would amount to 3,15 million Euro, with Windows 8 being even more expensive according to the IT-administration. A switch would incur additional costs, and mean the loss of the achievements in the support of open standards.”
That’s not happening if they go by the numbers, many $millions wasted for no improvement in IT at all. Meanwhile the migration to GNU/Linux more or less broke even, costing about what one or two rounds of staying on the Wintel treadmill would have cost and saving a bundle with each step Munich doesn’t take on that instrument of torture. It’s interesting that cost was not a prime motivator for Munich to migrate but it may be the reason they stick with GNU/Linux.

see Munich sticks with Free Software.

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GNU/Linux Takes a Bite Out Of That Other OS in Uruguay – 2014

I know statistics lie. Past performance, even recent past performance, says nothing about the future, but you have to appreciate the huge change happening in Uruguay. In the last month that other OS (all versions) has lost 10% share of page-views according to StatCounter and they’ve pretty well gone to GNU/Linux. ChromeOS is still small there and MacOS is static. I love it.

Notice the linear fit. The positive slope for GNU/Linux is very similar to the negative slope of that other OS. Not bad. Uruguay’s government seems to have a lot of good sense. While other countries have had a serious recession, all Uruguay had was a dip in unemployment… Poverty and debt are falling like stones… Maybe the growth of GNU/Linux is associated with this economic good sense. It certainly is associated with Project Ceibal which has delivered one million PCs to students. Amen.

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Yesterday Called And Left A Smile

When I was a boy back on the farm and later in Winnipeg, I loved to “browse” various hardware stores and departments in the city. There were hundreds of them scattered every few blocks so homeowners could buy paint or screws or hinges and fix things. There were gun shops, shoemakers, and mom and pop grocery stores.“Pollock’s Hardware Co-op is one of Winnipeg’s oldest and coolest hardware stores! Established in 1922 we are one of the few independent hardware stores to make it through the boom of big box stores. While thriving in the North End we are committed to staying true to our community, our members and Winnipeg.” Those days are gone, but not completely.

Today, The Little Woman sent me on some errands. I planned a little loop through the city with 3 stops, just before the afternoon rush. Of course, I got lost a bit but managed the first two quite nicely. On the third one, I found the place immediately, an ancient hardware store recently restored and run as a co-op, a community institution supplying smiles, conversation as well as nuts and bolts. A young lady gave prompt courteous efficient service, complete with use of a tape-measure, promising a broken window I brought in would be fixed before the day was done. It was. They phoned a few hours later advising the window could be picked up during business hours.

After my vitreous transaction was done, I had to walk around just to feel the place. The wooden floor moved gently under my weight. The shelves were crowded with unfamiliar products, including a pail of bone-meal I can use for my flowers and vegetables and shrubs next year. I remembered I had been in the place once before to buy a pail of paint and a swede-saw. We used to live near the place. I guess that’s why The Little Woman made the connection. I had long ago forgotten.

Anyways, I visited their website, linked below, and found another item I must buy, a stove-top popcorn-maker. It beats those noisy hot-air things and The Little Woman doesn’t like my technique of shaking a pot on the stove. She has a glass-topped stove…

Just walking around this store which provides great products and service left me with an all-day smile. It just made my day to see that the old ways still have value in our age of efficiency. I love to see a new generation committing to serving the public.

See Pollock's Hardware Co-op.

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There Are “Others” and Then There Are “Others”…

“Others” is a convenient category to put things in when stuff you don’t care about happens. GNU/Linux is something I care about but not Gartner. They lump GNU/Linux in with all that other stuff that’s not from M$, Apple, or Google but, hey, I can subtract.

Let’s do some maths. Usually “Others” is tiny. The biggest, “Others” I’ve seen is about 40% of PCs being shipped by other than the big five OEMs. Gartner has tabulated all the PCs of every kind shipped last year, this year and next year and “Others” in the emerging markets is huge, 520 million units this year. That’s in the operating system category. That’s more than the total number of legacy PCs. Smartphones are the biggest category. In Africa, for instance, according to StatCounter, “Series 40″ smartphones make up about 10% of page-views. Even on StatCounter, “others” is huge, about 12%. Series 40s phones are being dumped there according to one commentator, but that’s a huge number of units… Did Nokia really stockpile that many? According to Wikipedia, BlackBerry still ships a few million and left a few million as “others”. On the other hand, 520 million units is nearly 20% of all devices shipped globally… Conveniently not listing their OS is a little too convenient if you ask me. I’d like to know how many are GNU/Linux.

See Gartner Says Sales of Tablets Will Represent Less Than 10 Percent of All Devices in 2014.

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South Korea Faces The Bill For Lock-in To Wintel

Sometimes in an accident things happen in slow motion and all the mistakes it took to get to where there is no escape“the Korean government made Redmond’s software a requirement for online shopping and banking; a historically weak spot in online security.” pile up in great clarity. That’s happening in Korea where the government made a long chain of mistakes in setting up an ID-system for citizens.

The biggy is that they required the use of M$’s OS to do all kinds of on-line and financial transactions. Now most of the citizens’ unique identification numbers are the property of criminals who stole them from various businesses. This was an election issue a couple of years ago and now the mess has hit the fan. It might be instructive for Koreans to read Exhibit 465 in US DOJ v M$: “We have won platform battles before. To_make history happen again, we must make the industry embrace Internet Explorer and ActiveX:
* establish a significant installed base of users (browser share is starting point),
*sell the benefits of our platforms to the content developers,
* convince the influential webmasters to switch to our standards and promote them,
* reach the producers,
* help the traditional developers (ISVs and corporate developers) write to the ActiveX platform, so they develop the
rich base of Web applications and controls that establishes the value of the platform,
* “activate” our partners to create a supportive environment of partners – able to sell, integrate and support our solutions and 3rd party ActiveX technology.”

Yep. M$ set the trap and Korea and many others fell for it. M$’s salesmen weren’t the least bit interested in Korea’s security. Korea just got over migrating from XP to “7”. They largely skipped “8”. Now would be a good time to have a security fiasco with “7”. Everyone clearly sees that other OS as insecure. China banned it in government. It would be sweet if Korea did the same. I can see legislators considering this legislation while the phone calls and e-mails pile up.

I expect Korea will have to redo everything and get it right this time. Let’s hope they demand GNU/Linux be used for on-line/financial transactions and to protect data but failing that let’s hope they make GNU/Linux optional and the people can decide. There’s something refreshing about a whole country aroused about insecurity with that other OS on the check-list of things to fix.

See South Korea faces $1bn bill after hackers raid national ID database.

See also Presidential candidate promises to kill crypto standard locking nation into IE

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Good Karma

Karma: “Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering.” It’s not often one hears a CEO of a huge global corporation suggest that women should accept the pay they get and trust the future will take care of itself but M$’s Nadella did just that.“it’s clear that Nadella believes that women should trust that things will work out in the long run, or he would never have said it.” He later tried to back pedal on that but most folks feel words spoken from the heart reflect the darkness therein. Continue reading

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