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.

Links:

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.

PROGRAM

  • 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!

 

Speaking against the European patent court

This afternoon, I will give a talk at Aarhus University School of Engineering, recommending a no in the upcoming referendum about Denmark’s accession to the unitary patent and the European patent court.

Our main motivation for working against the unitary patent is that the rules about software patents are very unclear, and given a closed-circuit patent-lawyer-only system as created by the European Patent Organization and the court in conjunction, we have every reason to fear the worst. I wrote more about this here.

Below, you can see one of the posters from our campaign. Basically it says that we have to vote NO to patent trolls, as the unitary patent risks creating a patent troll-friendly environment in Europe which did not previously exist.

A NO in the referendum will not immediately help the rest of Europe, but at least unitary patents won’t be valid in Denmark. And, if Denmark votes no because of software patents, and Ireland follows suit in a year’s time when they have their referendum, it may yet help us campaign to change things. And, hopefully, kill software patents (and bio-patents, but that’s another story) once and for all.

Opening the 1st International Festival of Technoshamanism

The festival opened informally by people turning up little by little during the day. At night we had a long and very interesting discussion about permaculture and the future of the planet where we also discussed the threats to the Internet and the importance on Edward Snowden’s revelation of the real extent of government surveillance.

The weightiest input to the discussion came from our host Jürgen Botz, who is a German software engineer who came to Bahia after working in Silicon Valley for 25 years, mostly with free software. Jürgen believes there is not much we can do to change the patterns of consumption and global waming on the large scale. We can, however, change them on the small scale, by using permaculture, sustainable agriculture, and generally form groups to live differently and simply stop contributing to the madness. This may not save the planets, but it may enable us to save our own souls, or at least our own integrity. This is why he has started the permaculture initiative which is currently hosting the festival in the middle of a  Bahian jungle.

If you understand Portuguese, you can listen to the discussion here, thanks to Livia Achcar who recorded and edited the conversation to turn it into a radio program.

The official opening of the festival was today, and I’ll write about it later.

Photo: Carlos Diego

Participating in the 1st International Festival for Technoshamanism

This Monday, I’ll be boarding a plane for Brazil in order to attend the First International Festival of Technoshamanism, which will take place from April 23 to April 30 in Arraial d’Ajuda, Bahia.

Which kind of raises the question: What is “technoshamanism”?

It can best be described as an attempt to unite science with religion, and to integrate the worldview of indigenous peoples like the South American Indians with modern technology. It is also about finding a new way for humanity in the era we could call the anthropocene, where not only indigenous people all over the world, but practically speaking all of us arfe threatened with impending destruction.

In that respect, and in integrating the indigenous worldview, technoshamanism is inspired by the perspecitvism introduced by the Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. This includes an epistemological inversion, where the split between living, conscious human beings and the “dead” Nature inherent in European thought is replaced with a more general view of the world, where animals and things can be considered “living” and “conscious” as well, albeit usually in another way. In that sense, Viveiros’ perspectivism could be considered a formalization and generalization of an Amerindian philosophy.

There’s a more comprehensive explanation available in an article by Brazilian writer and pshychologist Fabiane Borges, which was the basis of her presentation at Transmediale 2014 (in Berlin). I’ve translated this article to from Portuguese to English, and it’s now available as a PDF here.

Borges describes Viveiros’ perspectivism as follows:

The difference between the evolutionary and the Amerindian perspective is that the former believes that there is one nature and many cultures, while the latter thinks of it as many natures and one culture. For the Indian, the only culture that exists is human culture. Everything that exists is human. A stone, the moon, a river, a jaguar, the deceased – all of these are human, but they are dressed in different clothes, behave differently and have different views on reality. For the Indians, a meeting of shamans may mean the same thing as that of a congregation of tapirs in a mudhole – each group is performing its own rituals.

Of course, if we delve into the differences between groups, we will find different priorities for each species and a particular creation myth for each of them, but the important thing here is to understand that the human foundation shared by all beings also serves to connect them and keeps them in a state of constant communication. This understanding is very important: behind the nature of a stone lies a human culture which is also the basis for inter-species communication. (…)

The shaman is a kind of diplomat who has the ability to assume several of these points of view. He is able to contact all those different forms; he can change his clothes and visit the points of view of many different beings. There may be a pact between him and those beings, a mutual affinity but also a repulsion. He is able to leave his own point of view behind and see himself from the outside and see the Indians of his tribe from the point of view of the tree or of the birds, the moon, the stars, or any other object or material. This ability means that the shaman has a deeper insight into the nature of things than most Indians, because he has improved this technique by intense training. That is why his madness, his schizofrenia and his perceptual deviation is considered to be wisdom.

Such a worldview, however, doesn’t always match modern society very well. Borges discusses the French sociologist Bruno Latour and his distinction between “humans” and “earthbound”, where the “earthbound” are those who are more bound to our planet and its well-being, while the “humans” are more dedicated to human society, not least its financial aspects:

On one side we have the poor, dirty bums: lazy, retarded, subjectivist infantile hippies, losers, misfits, spiritualists, barbarians. On the other side the urban people, committed to modernity, growth, development, enrichment, security, productivity, objectivity, and expansionism. These opposed camps are, in spite of not being very clearly defined, disputing modes of existence and ways of relating to Earth and to Life itself.

The point here is, that in the overall economic management of our Western societies (or of all the world’s societies, if we want to tell the truth) the “earthbound” are losing or being neglected, while the “humans” are dominating; “financial responsibility” dictates constant “growth”, i.e., we must burn down the planet in order to preserve it. But if we want to survive in the long run, we might do worse than starting listening in earnest to the earthbound, or at least to the scientists from the IPCC.

Technoshamanism, by following this thread, becomes a kind of spiritual search for everything for which there is no room in the harsh realities of modern industrial societies. It thus becomes a philosophy of garbage – of all the things we routinely throw away: Madness, hallucinations, nonconformity, the compassion for the unemployed and the sick and the poor in general, if and when they are perceived as obstructive to the juggernaut of growth. This means that even though the refuses of society are not necessarily healthy, we are obliged to search for our lost humanity precisely on the garbage heap.

Borges summarizes this position as follows:

This is equivalent to saying that technoshamanism apart from arising directly from a transversal shamanism is also dirty and noiseocratic. It belongs in the garbage dump, is unclean. A significant part of what technoshamanism affirms originates in the leftovers of scientific thinking, from precarious laboratories, uncertain knowledge, hacking, electronic garbage, workarounds, cats, originates from the recycling of materials, from the duplication of already thoroughly tested scientific results.

To this we may add particular questions from social movements related to feminism, to the movements of queers, of blacks, for free software, of the landless, of indigenous people, of river communities, of homeless people and the unemployed among countless others who also perceive through their own noises, their own dissidency, their own garbage.

The last paragraph also tells us what this has to do with free software. In fact, the festival is arranged in close collaboration with the local hacklab Bailux, whose volunteers for several years now have been working with the Indians from the nearby Aldeia Velha to do things with free software; precisely, among other things, helping the Indians preserve their ancestral knowledge using free software. The Brazilian hacker bus, one of the “crown jewels” of a local hacker movement which is completely dedicated to political change through free software, will be driving down to the festival from São Paulo. So, while the overall political and philosophical ideas behind the festival are not related to free software as such, they have everything to do with a culture where free software is completely ingrained. And that, one might add, is not without its own significance.

Links:

FSFE in the news

I’ve been quoted in the Danish newspaper Arbejderen (“The Labourer”) under the headline “IT Employees Launch Campaign Against the Patent Court“. The campaign is  about the upcoming referendum on the Danish accession to the new EU-wide Unified Patent and the related Unified Patent Court. The work of the FSFE and especially our Fellowship group is mentioned.

It is very important to campaign for a “no” in this referendum, since the Unified Patent will make the current problems with software patents from the European Patent Office much worse. If Denmark votes no, its businesses will be at least partially shielded from European-wide enforcement of software patents. The campaign is organized by PROSA and the IT-Political Association of Denmark.

This is more relevant than ever, as the EPO now openly admits that “technical software” can be patented.

See this, and this.

The quote is:

Carsten Agger is active in the IT-Political Association of Denmark and in  Open Space Aarhus, an association of people interested in technology[1].

He is also a coordinator in the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) which fights for the right to develop and distribute software freely.

This Friday, the FSFE joined a campaign to ask all  candidates for the upcoming elections for the European Parliament to join a pact which states that free software is a common good which is worth fighting for.

If you want to read the rest of the article, I propose you use Google Translate, as I don’t have the time to translate all of it.

Tonight, there’s going to be a public meeting in Aarhus to launch the new campaign against software patents and the Unified Patent. I hope there’s going to be a lot of people and that we can get the “no”. That could also help get the movement against software patent going in all of Europe.

Our local group in Aarhus will contribute as much to the campaign as it can. The patent court and the referendum will be the subject of our next fellowship meeting on February 20.

Notes:

[1]: Also called a HACKERSPACE. That’s the term we prefer.

[2]: Actually, the original article states that the FSFE launched that campaign. This is wrong and is not what I told the journalist. APRIL has launched it, the FSFE and specifically our local group wants to join it. The journalist has now fixed this in the online edition.

BibOS Admin – free admin system for GNU/Linux to be presented at FOSDEM

You can meet me this year at FOSDEM. I’ll be presenting a lightning talk about BibOS Admin, which is a ” web-based, easy to use admin system for Ubuntu” which we made in my company, Magenta.  The  subtitle of the talk is: “Because Landscape is too expensive”.

Here is the description of the talk on the FOSDEM page:

The public libraries in Denmark wanted an admin system for their new BibOS-system, which is an Ubuntu-based GNU/Linux distribution for audience PCs. To achieve this, we built a completely new and completely free administration system for Debian-based PCs.

The public libraries in several Danish municipalities are in the process of switching their audience PCs from Windows to Ubuntu.

They needed a central administration system to manage it, and Canonical’s Landscape product was unacceptable for them; they needed the system to be completely free/open source, and Canonical’s licensing when running Landscape as software-as-a-service was too expensive. The available free alternatives are either too technical for library staff, or they don’t support Debian-based systems well.

In response, we created “BibOS Admin”, a completely new administration system for all Debian-like systems. It enables users to remotely manage, maintain and upgrade PCs and run arbitrary, centrally defined scripts on them. The system is designed to be easy to use for non-technical staff who can rely on a set of pre-defined scripts, which should be set up as part of the setup for each organization (source code available here: https://github.com/magenta-aps/bibos_admin).

In the talk, I will discuss the technical and organizational challenges of building a new management system from scratch in collaboration with Biblioteksstyrelsen and the public libraries in Aarhus and Silkeborg, who kindly funded the effort.

This talk will be on Sunday, February 2. at 10.40 AM, but I expect to be at FOSDEM for the duration of the conference, i.e. both Saturday and Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Note: If you’re curious, you can check out the source code for the admin system and the BibOS desktop here: