Building Greenland’s new data infrastructure as free software

My company Magenta ApS is currently developing a data distributer infrastructure to handle all public data in Greenland and specifically to ensure their distribution between local authorities and the central government. I’m not personally involved in the development (though I might be at a later point, depending on the project’s needs), but I helped estimating and writing the bid. The data distributor must meet some quite high security and perfomance standards and will, as required by law, store data bitemporally according to the Danish standards for public data. As Greenland is a country of 2 million km² with a population of only 56,000, the system will be geographically quite distributed, and connectivity can be a problem, which challenges the system may also be able to handle.

The government of Greenland did not have a requirement that their new data infrastructure should be free software, but Magenta always delivers software under a free license, and we won the bid. The software will run on Microsoft Windows, since GNU/Linux skills can’t be reliably found on Greenland yet; it will be coded in a platform-agnostic way, using Java and Python/Django, so it could be switched to a GNU//Linux system at a later point, either to the government of Greenland or to possible new customers for this infrastructure.

As described on the EU’s free software observatory:

Next open source based, generation Public Records system for Greenlandic Agency for Digitisation

The government of Greenland wants to overhaul its current Grunddata (public records) system. According to the country’s digitalisation agency, one of the aims is to make it easier to share data between public administrations, businesses and citizens.

The modernisation should also increase public sector efficiency, by streamlining processes, deduplicating entries. The new system should also help to avoid requests for data that is already present in the public administration systems.

The new system is to provide high quality data, while passing on savings, and creating opportunities for growth and innovation, the Greenlandic Agency for Digitisation writes.

For Magenta, this is one of the largest orders in our history, and creating a new data infrastructure for an entire country as free software is an important opportunity – and responsibility. We’re looking forward to deliver this in order and hopefully keep working with the government of Greenland for years to come.

Working with free software

In 2012, I founded an FSFE local group in Aarhus. The intention was clear, I wanted to create a forum in Denmark for communicating politically about free software. There was and is a dire need for this – in a day and age where computers and computing become ever more pervasive, it is beginning to seem ridiculous that anyone can leave secondary school without at least a notion of the meaning of the GPL.

We got off to a good start with some quite successful meetings. However, in the course of 2014 and our campaign against the unitary patent and the EU patent court, I noticed myself becoming tired – and I realized that the group had still not accumulated enough momentum that the meetings would continue without me to drive the work. As a result we more or less folded in the course of 2015, with that year’s LibreOffice conference as the group’s final effort and call to arms.

So what happened? Well, for one thing, as a result of my interest for Bricolabs and the Dyne project I became involved in the Brazilian-based technoshamanism network, in the end co-organizing the second international festival in November. Obviously, all of that took its toll on my spare time.

However, that was not the most important reason. The most important reason is my day job. In my day job I work with free software – all the time. Specifically, I work as a free software developer, so my working hours are spent either programming new free software, fixing bugs or discussing the technical architecture of future projects. This is not, of course, the same thing as working politically to increase people’s understanding of the necessity of software freedom, but it’s close enough to make it difficult, at least for me, to dedicate large swathes of my spare time to software also – after all, there are other things in life. To boot, I’m also involved as a volunteer programmer in the Baobáxia project, and my activity in that project definitely also suffers from my day job.

In a way, my present day job is a realization of the dream I had when I first realized the importance of software freedom, namely one day to be able to sustain myself by creating software under free licenses only – and since my company is an increasingly important supplier to the Danish public sector we are, as a matter of fact, furthering the cause of software freedom, though from a professional and commercial angle – supplying actual software – rather than from a political and philosophical one. Which is my reason for writing this and future posts about our work in free software: To share a bit about how free software and software freedom actually play out in a real-world setting.

The first thing I’d like to make clear is that when you’re selling free software to a customer, you’re not really selling “free software” and definitely not selling software freedom – you’re selling software. That’s not to say that the customer doesn’t know that your software is free and doesn’t care, but it is to say that the customer is working in an organization that needs some work done – a functioning web site, a dictionary with adequate performance, a well-designed web app – and will normally focus a lot more on getting something that works than on the license conditions. If they understand software freedom, they may err on the side of getting the “open source” solution, but if a proprietary vendor is significantly better and cheaper than you, you’re probably out.

Secondly, that means that working with creating free software for actual customers is very much about delving into topics that are specific to your customer’s domain. What functions on the audience PCs does the librarian need to be able to control from the GNU/Linux remote admin system that we wrote? How are the mindbogglingly complicated standards behind the Danish government’s standardized data services to be interpreted, and how much domain knowledge do we need in order to understand the customer’s demands? And so on …

In this and future posts, I’d like to tell a bit about how all of this plays out in our daily work at Magenta, the company that I work for. Magenta is, with its approximately 20 employees, the largest company in Denmark which is completely specialized in delivering “open source” software. The company is, as will be understood, not rigidly “free software” oriented, but its mission statement does say that its purpose is “to deliver open source software”, with “open source software” being defined as such software that is under an OSI-approved license. This basically means that our company is unable to deliver software under a non-free license to anyone. In reality, all of our software is released to the client under the GPL, the LGPL or the Mozilla Public License. As I said, in future posts I will try to share what it means to work with and deliver free software under these conditions, and what it means and doesn’t mean for the prospects of software freedom in Denmark.

II Technoshamanism Meeting In Berlin

We are organizing the II Technoshamanism Meeting in Berlin!
The event will take place on Sunday, July 17 at TOP eV, Schillerpalais (Schillerpromenade 4 – Berlin) from 2pm to midnight.
Do you remember our first encounter in Berlin?


Once again, we are calling all the cyborgs, witches, heretics, technoshamans, programmers, hackers, artists, alchemists, thinkers and everyone who might be curious to gather on sunday  July 17, from 14:00  to midnight, in order to create discussions and practices regarding technoshamanism, thus strenghtening our networking in Berlin.
This time, it will be a little different then the first one. The event will happen in one single day and the purposed subject which will form the basis of the activities will be: II INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF TECNOSHAMANISM.


In April/2014 we did the I INTERNACIONAL TECNOSHAMANISM FESTIVAL in Arraial d‘Ajuda  in the south of Bahia/Brazil, in a permaculture and agroforestry site (Itapeco), in the vicinity of the Pataxó indigenous people.
It was an incredible meeting with so many interesting projects, and with the incisive participation of indigenous group Pataxo of “Aldeia Velha”. Two years after, a different Pataxo community invited us to make the II International Festival inside of their  community: Aldeia Para, the Mother community of Pataxo people. It will happend in Caraiva, Aldeia Para in one of the most beautiful and rustic villages in southern Bahia.
To see some videos of the indigenous pataxos talking about the festival, here:
We want to take the opportunity of our stay in Berlin to make the II meeting to in order to strengthen the network and introduce the theme of the II Festival, that is “resistance and networks in the anthropocene”. We will follow the principles of technoshamanism, which aims to connect new technologies with ancestral ones in order to repair the historical division between the two kinds of knowledge. Technoshamanism intends to create new inputs for  unorthodox ways of thinking regarding the development of free technology.
We know that there are so many interesting projects going on in the DIY scene in Berlin  dealing with matter, alterity, interespecifics, psychogeophysics, transcultural, body and so on. We want to approximate these practices with the technoshamanism enviroment.
We have here some ideas:
1-  What is the relationship between Hidden Services and the practices of revelation?
2- What is the connection between matter transformation and subjective transformation?
3- Is it possible to picturean ancesterfuturism without linearity?
4- What means make diy rituals or free cosmogony in a city so transcultural as Berlin?
All kind of practices in free technologies are in our view fundamental – landscape, body knowledge, electronics, healing rituals…
In the afternoon we will make various radio debates, workshops and after 21 pm we will make a  technoshamanist ritual in the basement. (Note, it is not hot inside).
We do it for free, just because we want and can!!
The program is still open!!
If you want to take part in this intense day, you are very welcome.
Carsten Agger (Denmark) – Baobáxia – an internet between quilombos – a community organized effort to preserve the cultural heritage of rural, often off-line and very dispersed Afro-Brazilian communities – and to liberate digital cultural work from the behemoths of Google and Facebook –
Peggy Sylopp (German) – A community of changemakers seeks to create a collaborative workspace for all who are developing innovative solutions linked to the social challenge of migration
16:00 – OPEN SOURCE OBSERVATORIES – Open Source Observatory is a distributed network of sites and gatherings for the observation of satellites, spacecraft and space junk.
Kei Kreutler (EUA – German) will show her research with space laboratorie
18:00 “ritual preparation”
By Fabiane M. Borges, and…
Participants are invited to experience a number of transnarratives and intertextual techniques to produce a fiction whose elements will underlie the DIY ritual.
Here is the call for such an immersive process organized in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Capacete):
Documentation of this process:
Obs: 1) The interested needs make registration by email;
2) All the registered must start to write down their own dreams to bring tot the workshop;
3) It is important for us to collaborate with all people and groups who want to work in the ritual.
Performing Languages: use of body techniques, improvisation scene , building individual and collective actions from auto-biographical studies , building expressive languages , ritualization , gestualization , states of presence, among others.
Noisecracy: use of techniques of sound language , noise production ( digital and analog) , vocalization, narrative improvisation , building collective states of listening . Understanding the noise and disruption of communication beyond intelligibility: emission – redundancy – reception. The idea here is to build languages which exist between humans and other species .
Fictional narratives: fictionalization, development of collective writing transnarrative characters, character development, environments, contexts. Interescritures, cosmogonical production, mythical, metaphysical, several ontologies, treaties, free association writing.
space between
1- OHMNOISE Softwar 2016 – A technologic ritual for reactivating your hidden memories and energy – with Markus Schwill – Duration 23 minutes.
2- COLECTIVE IAUZK/U – (this 2016 summer 2nd edition): Viktor Vejvoda,, Gustavo Sanromán, Jana Douda, Ras Damasta) will give psychonautic assistance and astronomical-weird visual projections ,present and perform possibilities of reverse engineering and re-use of old laptop batteries and ways of amateur diagnostics, recharging and use every one can adapt. Recycled source of energy via Li-Ion 18650 battery cells will be used for the whole team in an adaptive-disposable way. We collectivelly will temporarily behave also as open-becomers adapting ourselves to the communal dynamic which will take place
3- MOANA MAYALL – sing, make noises, opera.
She’s gonna use aromatics herbs, local sound massages and other senses manipulations to provide intimate experiences during the day. And some hardcore vocals and dancing at night. Both based on the unknown and caleidoscopic work of Emma Eisenstein, avant-guardist botanist and first music-ethnologist of Europe.
5- VANESSA RAMOS-VELASQUEZ – will bring a tree slice or its imprint containing the traces of its growth rings and sonificate the data extracted in a dendrochronology lab from the 128 rings produced by the tree during its 128 years of living near the Rote Kaserne in Potsdam.
6- ANA CARBIA – Body improvisation, dance, catharsis
Meeting organized by:
Fabiane M. Borges (Brazil) and Carsten Agger (Denmark) in collaboration with TOP eV and Freifunk Berlin.
Technoshamanism network –
Free digital networks and sharing of internet self organized by communities. The Freifunk Network in Berlin and Germany introduces itself, the social and political impact and the technical realization.
Ana Carbia, Dancer, Shiatsu Therapist and Yoga Kundalini Teacher.She began in Buenos Aires studying contemporary dance. Since 90¨she works with Butoh school in Berlin , some of the principles of this dance as seeking the movement from the essential further than coreografia and the magic of the moment, drive her close to the improvisation dance and shamanism. Since begining of 2013 give a workshop about researching movement , sound and voice Since 2015 is a Cofunding of ¨La Siembra“ a group of interactive and improvisation.
Carsten Agger is a software developer, activist and writer who has been active in social movements, for free software and civil rights and against racism and colonial wars, for twenty years. Trained as a theoretical physicist he works as a free software developer, contributes to the Baobáxia project and co-organized the LibreOffice Conference 2015. He wrote a book about the Qur’an and is currently studying Norse religion and language for a comparative project. Carsten is based in Aarhus, Denmark.
Fabiane M. Borges is phd in clinical psychology, essayist and artist. Her research is about Space-art, art, technology, shamanism, performance and subjectivity. Usually she call her own work as “imersive process”.
Freifunk stands for distributing free networks, democratizing media of communication and promoting local social structures. By interconnecting whole neighborhoods, we want to bridge the digital gap and establish a free and independent network infrastructure. More precisely, the aim of Freifunk is installing open wifi networks and interconnecting them. This facilitates free data “air traffic” in the whole city within the Freifunk network. In short, Freifunk is an open, non-commercial, non-hierarchical initiative for free networks.
Kei Kreutler is a researcher, web developer and community facilitator interested in networked practices for nomadic groups and applied autonomous living. She currently contributes to @unMonastery, @OSObservatory, @TransforMap, @2nd__foundation, @SatNOGS, and is Spatial Advisor at Large for the GPA.
Markus Schwill aka Ohmnoise is a Berlin artist. His main focus on these days is the research and manipulating, in a positive way, of the human and universal soul. His experiments and knowledge are integrating into a ritual-performance based on ancient intuition and modern technologies. He calls his performances SOFTWAR, to create an aesthetic acceptable contention in reference to our inner world and the actual daily horror news. He works since 1981 in the fields of wired music, added video and fine arts later on and was a curator for hundreds of events in the Berlin alternative art-scene.
Moana Mayall multiartist from Rio and based in Berlin. At the moment goes through a portal experiment between the Complexo do Alemão (=”German Complex”, biggest favela complex in Rio, Brazil), and the enigmas of the Deutsch Komplex.
Peggy Sylopp She is Dipl. Computer scientist and artist, founder of PexLabs. Her passion lies in the combination of art, technology and science, as with own artistic works or in the design of workshops or campaigns. So she searched for her Public Policy Master’s thesis about the potential of artistic work to pass on technical knowledge. Her installative and performative light arts are based oa.o. on motion detection, 2008, she was nominated together with her partner Giovanni Longo the German Sound Art Award.
Colective IAUZK/U – Kooperativa-Extitution dedicated to Open source, Peer to peer,Social Design,Urban Gardenin, Sharing economy, DIY strategies – (Viktor Vejvoda, Sebastien Mazauric, Gustavo SanRoman) psychonautic assistance and astronomical-weird visual projections, will temporarily behave as a semiograph, drawing combinations of shapes and subtles meanings, under the mixed influence of the ritual and personal obsessions (absurdity, human realm, fantasies, aesthetic and panache),present and perform possibilities of reverse engineering and re-use of old laptop batteries and ways of amateur diagnostics, recharging and use every one can adapt. Recycled source of energy via Li-Ion 18650 battery cells will be used for the whole team in an adaptive-disposable way.
Solene Garnier is a multi-directional performer, combining drama, dance and music in integrating her body and voice with a range of instruments including winds, strings, keyboards and percussion. 2-Solene Garnier is a she-beast who eats raw liver from ducks she strangles with her bare hands while running through the hills. 3-She’s gonna use aromatics herbs, local sound massages and other senses manipulations to provide intimate experiences during the day. And some hardcore vocals and dancing at night. Both based on the unknown and caleidoscopic work of Emma Eisenstein, avant-guardist botanist and first music-ethnologist of Europe.
top e.V. Association for the Promotion of Cultural Practice has been operating in Berlin since June 2002. Our members are artists, researchers and activists, whose activities range from individual research to curating project space and to international collaboration. Our infrastructure supports projects that pursue an interdisciplinary approach, support international exchange or deal with non-commercial attitudes. This includes but not limits to project space, webspace, channels of distribution and networking.
Vanessa Ramos-Velasquez – is media artist and transdisciplinary researcher from Brazil and the United States, where she was a Fulbright scholar in Art & Design and Media Studies. Her artistic practice started with Structural/Materialist image-making via cameraless animation for her experimental films to VJing as part of her performance art and installation pieces. Her most recent work intersects with art, design, culture, science and technology, ranging from sonification of data in dendrochronology, videomicrography and creative coding for immersive interactive performative installations where the public is invited to integrate the assemblages.

Video of our talk on Baobáxia @ FOSDEM

Video link to our talk on Baobáxia, the Galaxy of Baobab Trees

Our talk is, of course, also on Baobáxia itself.

The talk was scheduled late Sunday and that did affect the attendance, but the people who were there displayed a lot of interest in the system.

On Saturday, we set up a booth and operated for some hours, which also gave some very interesting opportunities to share ideas about the system.


Baobáxia at FOSDEM

At the upcoming FOSDEM, I’ll be presenting the Baobáxia system, previously mentioned on this blog quite some time ago.

On the corresponding FOSDEM presentation page, the talk is described with these words:

Baobáxia is a community-built project to connect about 200 Brazilian quilombos to assist the interchange and preservation of traditional, community-built culture.

A special challenge is found in the fact that many of these communities are located in remote areas with no access to the Internet. It is therefore imperative to be able to synchronize multimedia data offline.

Technically, the system uses git-annex to solve the challenging problem of offline distribution – but the really important part of the process is the community effort involved.

The Rede Mocambos is a network of about 200 Afro-Brazilian and indigenous communities. As a network, it is focused on creating new infrastructure and strengthening the communities through the use of free software.

Baobáxia is a system designed to unite these communities in an offline network. Each community will upload their local cultural production (in the form of documents and multimedia content) to their local node of the system and have their contributions synchronized to the rest of the network. Nodes with an internet connection can synchronize directly from other nodes on the internet, while offline communities can synchronize their contents during the frequent meetups and visits with other communities in the network.

Baobáxias purpose is to provide traditional communities with the infrastructure to create and preserve their own digital culture on their own terms. The offline distribution is very important as many of these communities will probably never have fast Internet access due to their geographical location, but the creation of a free and community operated infrastructure for sharing multimedia data may also be seen as an important alternative to centralized global monopolies as YouTube and Facebook.

The system has now been operating for about a year and currently contains 30 nodes corresponding to about 20 different local communities. The project’s efforts are currently directed at consolidating the current features, planning new features for future releases and giving workshops for users and administrators in the communities.

Technically, the system is built in Python and Django, with a front end based on Java Script and uses git and git-annex to synchronize the media. The important part of the process, however, is the community building aspect. Baobáxia represents the hope for the digital future for an existing network of ~200 traditional communities which are already keen on using free software and free technology to propagate and develop their culture.

Organizing this year’s LibreOffice conference

Conference opening

Leif Lodahl opening the conference, emphasizing among other things that LibreOffice is about free software - as in freedom.

At the instigation of my colleague Leif Lodahl, I had the honour of co-organizing this year’s LibreOffice conference here in Aarhus. It was an amazing experience to see the community behind one of the world’s most important free software projects, a system with many millions of users that is a cornerstone of any attempt to migrate existing organisations away from proprietary software.

As an organizer I didn’t really have time to speak with anyone, but I did meet a lot of good people – far too many to mention, but including The Document Foundation’s director Florian Effenberger, FSFE Hamburg coordinator Eike Rathke and former FSFE employee Sam Tuke. If I manage to go to FOSDEM next year, I hope to meet some of the people again and maybe this time have a chance to talk.

There were a lot of interesting talks, many of them about some quite advanced subjects, including some of the more esoteric aspects and uses of C++11. The event was kindly hosted by the municipality of Aarhus in its new, high-tech library building Dokk1.

All in all, the conference seemed to be a success, with three days packed with talks, hackfest and other social events in the evenings and about 150 registered attendees from at least 33 countries.

See also: Announcing the LibreOffice Conference for 2015 in Aarhus, Denmark

Relaxing at LiboCon

Relaxing with a beer after the first day of the conference.

Preparing hackfest and dinner party

Preparations for the hackfest and dinner party - the latter part kindly hosted by the University of Aarhus

Attendees listening to a talk.


Update, conference, hackfest, etc.

I’ve been far too busy to write much here about my activities. What have I been working on?

Free software. And permaculture and other things, but mainly free software. The last weeks, we’ve been working on organizing this year’s LibreOffice conference in Aarhus. As part of that, we’re organizing Denmark’s first LibreOffice hackfest ever in Open Space Aarhus, our local hackerspace.

To quote what I wrote earlier today:

At the time of writing, there’s 42 registered attendees.

And the good news is: Everyone is welcome!

The event will focus on “C++11 in LibreOffice” and on bug triaging and bibisecting. There’s going to be drinks, snacks and dinner available.

  • The event is taking place at OSAA on September 24, starting at 17:30 hours.
  • Just before the event starts, the Aarhus C++ User’s Group will have a brief meeting in the space.
  • There will be non-alcoholic drinks,  beer and snacks
  • Concurrently, there will be a party for the non-hacking LibreOffice community in the Nygaard building just across the street, in the University’s Department of Computer Science.
  • Dinner will happen at 19:00 hours in the Nygaard building, for hackers and non-hackers alike. People will be on hand to show you the way.
  • Please register for dinner so we can order the food for you!
  • After dinner, hacking and socializing will continue until around midnight.


  • 17:30 People arrive
  • 17:45 Welcome by a member of the hacker space board, introduction to the evening’s themes
  • 18:00 Hacking and socializing
  • 19:30 Dinner
  • 20:00-00:00 Hacking and socializing

Times are approximate.

Do seize the opportunity to work with the hackers from one of the world’s largest FOSS projects!

The hackfest is organized as part of this year’s LibreOffice Conference - and I’m happy that so many conference participants will be coming to meet our vibrant local hackerspace community!

If you’re anywhere near that day: Do come!

Baobáxia – the Galaxy of Baobab Trees

Baobáxia - the Galaxy of Baobab TreesYesterday evening, I gave a T³ (Tech Talk Tuesday) talk in our local, friendly hackerspace about the Mocambos network and their software project Baobáxia – a free software project to connect very widely distributed, often rural communities, namely the Brazilian quilombos.

Since my visit to Brazil in April, I’ve been involved in this project as a programmer, at least as far as my time has allowed.

Above, you can find a link the slides from my presentation – you can also read them in PDF format (with functional links) here.

Announcing the LibreOffice Conference for 2015 in Aarhus, Denmark

The LibreOffice Conference for 2015 will take place in Aarhus, Denmark, as a collaboration between the Document Foundation, the Danish LibreOffice community, the FSFE local group and the municipality of Aarhus. Also involved are the local hacker space and (hopefully) other local free software groups. I will personally  be involved as a community contact, i.e. as the person with feet on the ground in Aarhus, responsible for the contact to local NGOs. The event will be hosted by the municipality.

As the Document Foundation writes on its blog:

Aarhus Waterfront

The Document Foundation (TDF) announces that the LibreOffice Conference 2015 will be jointly organized by the Danish LibreOffice community in collaboration with local F/OSS groups and the Aarhus municipality, and hosted at the brand new Urban Media Space, from September 23 to September 25, 2015.

In addition, on September 22 the LibreOffice community will gather for several face-to-face meetings: Board of Directors, Advisory Board, Engineering Steering Committee, and Certification Committee.

Aarhus is a city of education, knowledge and research. Its university is internationally recognized for its contributions within, among other fields, social sciences, technology and science. Aarhus is known to attract talented students from around the world which also provides the city with a great diversity.

“Hosting the LibreOffice Conference will be an exciting opportunity for the entire Danish free software community”, says Leif Lodahl, a long time leader of the Danish LibreOffice community, a founder of The Document Foundation, and the architect of several large migration projects to LibreOffice. “We are looking forward to welcoming LibreOffice volunteers and advocates from every corner of the world”.

As the day comes nearer, I may well want to reach out to the wider FSFE community to ask for assistance and support. I’m certainly excited to see how it will  work out.

ownCloud and free software in the cloud: Meet Frank Karlitschek in Open Space Aarhus

I’m co-organizing this event, involving our hackerspace and the FSFE local group in Aarhus:

Frank Karlitschek, creator of ownCloud, will give a talk centering on ownCloud, free software in the enterprise and data protection in a post-Snowden world.

The talk will be followed by a discussion with the audience and a discussion panel consisting of:

  • Frank Karlitschek, Debian developer and creator of ownCloud
  • Christian Orellana, CEO of Cabo, a company that build enterprise clouds from free software
  • Carsten Agger, local group coordinator in Free Software Foundation Europe and software developer in Magenta, a company that specializes in free software mainly for the Danish public sector.

The event will take place in Open Space Aarhus on

Wednesday, October 1 at 18:00 hours

Do bring  a friend, this is going to be interesting!