Random rants and thoughts about my activities in and for the Free Software community.

The end of a phase

September 18th, 2007

Yesterday the long battle supporting the EU Commission in the antitrust trial ended.  Such activity was started by Peter Gerwinski and later carried out by others, including me.  Yesterday a phase has closed.

Today I start a new one, but without FSFE.  I have just sent the following message to FSFE board announcing my resignation.  Thank you for your help and support: these have been wonderful years.

Dear FSFE Team and Free Software community,

I hearby resign from my position as Italian Chancellor and Fellowship Coordinator for the FSFE.

I have contributed to the growth of the organization since 2001, including the creation of projects such as the Fellowship and GNUvox.info, the fight to the swpat directive, the opposition to OOXML and many other successful activities.

So it is with a heavy heart that I must recognize the organization has taken a direction that I can no longer support, one which I feel will eventually make it irrelevant in the community, if not defunct.

In June 2007 I devised with other team members a constructive proposal to re-organize the foundation as a starting point for reforms. It fell  on deaf ears. It has since become clear that all efforts would be made to ensure that my resignation was necessary.

I will continue to promote Free Software within other organizations and in other ways. 

I wish to thank all the people who generously contributed time and expertise to the Italian chapter and the Fellowship.

Stefano Maffulli

From now on, please contact me using my personal email addresses:
stef   maffulli net or stef  zoomata  com
My personal blog is at http://maffulli.net

Microsoft behaviour on OOXML pokes ESR

September 4th, 2007

Eric Raymond is back and has written, with his very recognizable style, that he dislikes what Microsoft is doing to get OOXML approved by the International Standards Organization.  Good old ESR is so disgusted by the maneuvers to destroy ISO’s credibility only to maintain Microsoft’s monopoly on Office that he is willing to change his mind about Open Source Initiative’s position:

OSI will treat any licenses submitted to Microsoft strictly on their merits, without fear or favor. That remains OSI’s position. But…

Yes, there is a but, he says:

Despite my previous determination, I find I’m almost ready to recommend that OSI tell Microsoft to ram its licenses up one of its own orifices, even if they are technically OSD compliant. Because what good is it to conform to the letter of OSD if you’re raping its spirit?

I agree with ESR: who cares if some of Microsoft’s license technically grant four freedoms (or 9 principles). The problem is that Microsoft is not being a good member of the digital society, it’s still acting as a bully in the school backyard.

Now I wish Eric recognized that what he said means that OSI is about moral principles as much as FSFs are and there is nothing to be ashamed for this.

Back from vacation and new beta

August 22nd, 2007

Hello world! After some (very good) time offline I’m back with good news.  As you can see from the big ‘beta’ on the  head of these pages, the site has been added an important feature. It is now possible to add content in languages that is not English and manage translations.  At the moment the languages enabled are Spanish (Castillan), German, Italian and English.  More can be added on request.

Most of the work to modify the standard eZ Publish features was done by Alejandro Serrano, who we can’t thank enough.  He didn’t know eZ Publish before but it took him very little time to master it. 

Would you like to help developing this site?  Get in touch with Fellowship-hackers at fsfeurope dot org.  For comments, bug reports and suggestions use the forum.

If we’d been worrying about principle instead of open source

July 25th, 2007

It seems that it’s not hot just in Milano but also in Portland. At least the debate between Eben Moglen and Tim O’Reilly at the OSCon seems to have heated up.  While giving a speech there, Moglen invited O’Reilly to join the conversation about freedom that he has been avoiding.  From what I read, Eben used his direct (warning: euphemism) style and Tim interpreted it as an attack.  But, all things considered, Eben is right: it’s time to grow up and face the real issues.

Moglen took O’Reilly to task over supporting "open source" rather than free software. "If we’d been worrying about principle instead of open source … You guys were wasting time talking about open source…. We still have serious problems to correct in public policies made by people propping up business models that were dying and wasting time promoting commercial products." 

I couldn’t find the recordings of the speech: are there any?

Free Software acquisition by governments

July 13th, 2007

 It’s recent news that the Italian Camera dei Deputati (the lower chamber of the Parliament) has started a project to offer support for GNU/Linux on desktops for those that ask it.  I hope to see Pietro Folena‘s laptop equipped with Free Sw next time I meet him :)   From what I understood also the backend infrastructure of the chamber will also migrate to GNU/Linux. 

The big news, IMHO, is that the technical helpdesk has been prepared to support GNU/Linux, which is an important achievement.  I’m one of those that believe that Free/Libre Software shouldn’t need laws that mandate it. What is most needed IMHO, is that CIO of public administrations are trained and prepared to deal with Free Software acquisition.  Tenders to "buy" software often contain provisions that cut out Free Software based solutions (as it was the case fought and won by Assoli).

We need leadership (as Matt says) but we also need lobbyists and think tanks that are strong and credible to support those leaders because it’s a war out there, as Massachusetts demonstrated.   FSFE’s Freedom Task Force training goes in that direction, but more more more is needed and should be done.  I think that good-will, as Roberto puts it, is the same thing as leadership in this case.

BTW: DoD (Naval Research Lab) does and did "C".  At least one example is the project TOR, The Onion Router. Oddly enough, DoD shared development costs with those liberals of EFF :)

FakeSteveJobs to Gates: you’ve become the Grinch

July 12th, 2007

Boy, FakeSteveJobs is so funny, even when he calls us ‘freetards‘.  This post is not about rms not getting an iphone, but it’s aimed directly at Gates and about Vista. It’s an interesting read because it could be a post that one of us could have written (and probably did).  I love the advice to get rid of Ballmer: I think that most of the bad in Microsoft comes from him, too :)

Because you know what you’ve become? You’ve become the Grinch. You’ve become a tax collector. You’re the guy people hide from when you ride into town. It’s not good. You need to do something about that. 

Free digital Europe needs good lobbyists

June 28th, 2007

The questions Roberto poses to lobbyist Florian Mueller gave me to think about the current file format war and the role of medium/large European companies.  It impresses me how many of them still have no idea of what mess the specification of OOXML are, how bad it will be for them on the market to have it approved by ISO.

I’m glad that it’s Roberto saying the following:

I invite medium to large IT European companies to think about it, and invest money to lobby. Now.

I hope they listen.

End of June with fireworks

June 27th, 2007

What a month this was.  ISO vote on fast-tracking approval of OOXML is approaching and in this room all I can hear is the tipical klanging noise of double-hand swords. I can barely write.  Next Friday GPLv3 final version is being published: phones are ringing and press officers are typing.

If this was not exciting enough, tomorrow FSFE starts its annual meeting, this year in Bruxelles.  Tomorrow night there is a Fellowship party (get the details here, it will be in a bar/pub in the city centre).  On Friday morning I will present to FSFE board the results of the Fellowship project. Next days will be very intense, I can’t wait.

A presentation on Free Software Business and ethics

June 20th, 2007

I’ve put online the presentation I gave few days ago at the Executive MBA in ICT in Milano.  It’s my first experiment with beyond bullets style.  I liked preparing it and thanks to the CC search in Flickr it didn’t take much time. I’ve always thought that an image is better than 1000 words, so I let the images speak and impress the audience while I added my words on top. 

The structure of the presentation, designed for a two hours lesson (I stayed in time, including some questions and a couple excursions for deeper explanations asked by students), follows a scheme in three acts:

  1. setup the story: introducing the digital society we live in, show that software is everywhere, explain that who writes software has power that needs to be balanced:
  2. develop the act: show examples of life in digital society, show how digital domain work, why it is different, what laws exist to balance powers, introduce ethics and business responsibility in the digital domain
  3. Frame the resolution: present the vision of FSFs with programmer’s ethics (four freedoms) and work to improve the situation, with a final call for action to claim balance of powers in digital society.

Most of the slides are images, but there are few sentences in Italian. Let me know what you think, if find it inspiring at all.

I owe a lot to Roberto Galoppini, for the image of Free Software Business as a juggling act: (aren’t they all, btw?), to Lawrence Lessig (for the ebook DRM screenshots) and Renzo Davoli (for the pipe).

So, Microsoft stuff works better?

June 19th, 2007

This morning I wanted to blog about my lesson at the MIP Politecnico Business School, but I stumbled upon this story that made me hate my Nokia 6680.  I tried syncing my Symbian based phone with my Ubuntu so many times but all I got was frustration.  This guy, OTOH, reports an [almost] flawless experience syncing Evolution with his WinCE based phone.  I’m so jealous. Is this the luck of the newbie or is it that Nokia has screwed things up royally?

I’ve been aware of the existence of the Linux operating system for a long time, but I’d always assumed that it would be too complicated for me to learn and was a bit too geeky. Recently, however, I began hearing about a version of Linux called Ubuntu that was supposed to be pretty easy to use. Flash forward a few weeks and not only have I found that it is relatively easy to use, but it’s already replaced Windows Vista as my main operating system of choice for day to day use!

Read more: A New Adventure! Windows Mobile and Ubuntu Linux