Use GNOME to cross the street

During my keynote at GUADEC this year I mentioned that we should not just look for people who can contribute on the same level as we do in the Free Software community. But that we need to find actions, with a low barrier to participate so our friends, parents, children can also take part.

Matthias Kirschner on stage at GUADEC, CC-By Garrett LeSage

This includes showing others that you support software freedom by using T-shirts, bags, pins, or stickers. I was mentioning that once in Berlin I saw a GNOME sticker over the button of a pelican crossing. But unfortunately I could not find that picture before the talk as I remembered it just the night before the talk, and could not find it on my laptop. Still, during GUADEC several people asked me about that picture again. All I could say was that it was during one of the Linuxtage in Berlin. On my way back I checked my laptops’s hard disk again, but still without success.

A few weeks ago while I was polishing up the notes for the speech about universal computing—so others can reuse them when talking about software freedom—I remembered the picture and I challenged myself to find it. So I spent some more time to dig through my backup disks. Finally I found it, and this week I was also able to find out who the author is.

Dear GNOME community, as a modest gift for the holiday season, here the picture from Linuxtag 2009 taken by Christoph Göhre (can be used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License):

Gnome sticker on a crosswalk button, above it says in German "please touch"

If you could not participate at GUADEC you missed meeting a lot of awesome Free Software contributors, but you can still watch the talk: The video from my keynote is now online. There is also a shorter version from Akademy, as well as a German recording from FrOSCon.

My interview for the keynote at Akademy published

I am invited to give a keynote at KDE’s Akademy on Saturday 25 July. In the preparation for the conference Devaja Shah interviewed me, and his questions made me look up some things in my old mail archives from the early 2000s.

The interview covers questions about my first GNU/Linux distribution, why I studied politics and management, how I got involved in FSFE, how Free Software is linked to the progress of society, my involvement in wilderness first aid seminars, as well as my favourite music. (Thanks to Victorhck who translated the interview into Spanish and also added corresponding videos.)

I am looking forward to interesting discussions with KDE contributors and the local organisers from GPUL during the weekend.

German FSFE activities in 2013

Looking back to 2013, the German FSFE team had an active year. Lots of volunteers spent their time to promote Free Software at events, meetings, by giving speeches, or online. Some highlights of our work in 2013 include:

  • We continued to defend the rights of device owners to change software on their computers.
  • We informed politicians about the danger of software patents with the result that the German Parliament told the government to strictly limit patents on software. I was invited as expert in the German Parliament for this hearing.
  • Soeren organised a Hacking for Compliance workshop in cooperation with
  • We have active Fellowship meetings in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, new ones in Munich organised by Christian Kalkhoff, and Guido Arnold reactivated the Rhein/Main Fellowship meetings. Furthermore there is also a good perspective for regular meetings in Bonn and Cologne for 2014.
  • We participated at every meeting of the “Enquete Commission Internet and Digital Society” (Enquete Kommission Internet und Digitale Gesellschaft) of the German Bundestag. We answered questions from the politicians and send them background information. The final report from the working group “interoperability, standards, and Free Software” will help political staff to learn more about the topic. It includes a texts by us (e.g. about “Secure Boot”), and there was a thank you note to FSFE in the introduction.
  • For DFD with 59 events in 30 countries worldwide we again helped people to understand the importance of Open Standards. The German award went to the newspaper TAZ.
  • We again gave lots of talks and participated in panel discussions. E.g. Michael Stehmann in the local parliament, and of course at Free Software events. We organise a conference track at Linuxtag, and where present in new locations, e.g. the street festivals in Munich from our newly activated Fellowship group there. Especially Torsten and Erik were active giving radio interview.
  • We send questions to political parties for all elections, and evaluated the answers to follow-up with the politicians.

Erfahrungsbericht: Experte in der Internet Enquete

Das hatte ich nicht erwartet: Eine Projektgruppe im Bundestag, die sich ausführlich mit Freier Software und Offenen Standards beschäftigt. Also genau die Themen, mit denen ich mich schon seit über 13 Jahren auseinandersetze. Dieses Jahr war es soweit: die Projektgruppe Interoperabilität, Offene Standards, Freie Software (PG ISF) der Enquete-Kommission Internet und digitale Gesellschaft wurde gestartet. Ich war bisher bis auf zwei Ausnahmen bei allen Sitzungen entweder als Gast und einmal als eingeladener Experte mit dabei. Anbei ein kleiner Bericht, was mir wichtig war oder was ich spannend fand.


Die Enquete-Kommission Internet und digitale Gesellschaft gibt es seit Mai 2010. Ihr Ziel ist es, die Auswirkungen des Internets auf Politik und Gesellschaft zu untersuchen und später Empfehlungen an das Parlament auszusprechen. Am 11. Juni 2011 startete dann die PG ISF unter dem Vorsitz von Jimmy Schulz (FDP). In den ersten beiden Sitzungen wurden Details zum Ablauf besprochen und ein Arbeitsprogramm erarbeitet. Dieses wird nun von den Mitgliedern der Projektgruppe ausgearbeitet und am Ende werden auf dieser Basis die Handlungsempfehlungen formuliert.

Expertenhörung Freie Software

Am 21. September fand als dritte Sitzung die Expertenhörung der PG ISF statt. (Heise hatte bereits darüber berichtet.) Zu der Sitzung gibt es auf den Webseiten der Enquete einen Videomitschnitt und das Protokoll auf die ich mich bei Zeitangaben und Seitenangaben beziehe.

Ich selbst war auch als Experte zum Thema Freie Software eingeladen. Das heißt ich wurde vorher angefragt, in der Projektgruppe vorgeschlagen und von den Fraktionen bestätigt. Vorab musste ich zwei Fragen schriftlich beantworten und zustimmen, dass die Antworten im Abschlussbericht verwendet werden können.

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Pressespiegel zu Vortrag über Gerätehoheit auf Campus Party

Es gab eine DPA-Meldung zu meinem Vortrag bei der Campus Party (derzeit leider nur auf youtube) die in Artikelbei Focus, Welt, Stern, und ein paar lokalen Zeitungen (bsp. Lübecker Nachrichten)gelandet ist. Hier der Ausschnitt:

Matthias Kirschner von der Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) kritisierte in einem Vortrag zunehmende Restriktionen für die Nutzer digitaler Geräte. Wer eine DRM-Kopierschutztechnik entwickle, behandle den Kunden als Feind, sagte Kirschner. Bei Betriebssystemen für den Computer und bei mobilen Geräten gebe es zunehmend den Trend, dass der Nutzer nicht mehr selbst bestimmen dürfe, welche Software er installieren könne und welche nicht. Die FSFE fördert die Nutzung freier Software wie des Betriebssystems Linux.

Matthias Kirschner
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“Secure Boot”: Who will control your next computer?

FSFE’s goal is to ensure that the owners of IT devices are always in full and sole control of them. This fundamental principle is recently being challenged by “Secure Boot”. For maintaining sustained growth in the development and use of software, the broad availability of general purpose computers is crucial. Today FSFE’s published an analysis on the topic.

FSFE’s goal is to ensure that the owners of IT devices are always in full and sole control of them. This fundamental principle is recently being challenged.

With a function called “Secure Boot”, which will be deployed in computers starting 2012, manufacturers of IT hardware and software components are striving to get into a position where they permanently control the IT devices they produce. Hence such devices will be “secure” from the manufacturer’s perspective, but not necessarily from the owner’s point of view: The owner can be treated as an adversary. By preventing uses of the device which the manufacturer does not intend, they can control and limit what a general purpose IT machine (e.g. a PC, laptop, netbook) may be used for. In case of IT devices with internet access, they can alter these usage restrictions at any time without even informing the device owner. As a result, IT manufacturers at their will can take away common rights owners of products usually receive.


Matthias Kirschner
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FSFEs Analyse und Forderungen zu Secure Boot

Cory Doctorow hatte auf dem 28C3 noch über "The Coming War on General Computation" gesprochen und Fefe hatte Anfang Mai noch gefragt, wo die Initiative zur Gerätehoheit bleibt.

Es ist wichtig für unsere Gesellschaft, dass die Eigentümer von IT-Geräten permanent die volle und alleinige Verfügungsgewalt darüber innehaben. Dieses grundlegende Prinzip wird derzeit, wie bereits berichtet, durch "Secure Boot" herausgefordert. Heute hat die Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) eine Analyse dazu veröffentlicht (Englisch):

FSFE’s goal is to ensure that the owners of IT devices are always in full and sole control of them. This fundamental principle is recently being challenged.


FSFE demands that before purchasing a device, buyers must be informed concisely about the technical measures implemented in this device, as well as the specific usage restrictions and their consequences for the owner.

Furthermore, FSFE strongly recommends to exlusively purchase IT devices which grant their owners full, sole and permanent control over security subsystems (e. g. signature-based usage restrictions), in order to maintain the ability to install arbitrary software and lastly to retain exclusive control over ones own data.

Matthias Kirschner
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TAZ “‘Secure Boot’ für Windows 8 Gefahr für Linux”

Die TAZ hat einen Artikel zu Secure Boot. Darin auch ein kurzem Zitat von uns:

“Anwender müssen die Möglichkeit haben, selbst zu entscheiden, welches Betriebssystem sie installieren”, erklärte Matthias Kirschner von der Free Software Foundation Europe der taz. “Wir befürchten, dass unter dem Label ‘Secure Boot’ versucht wird, genau das zu verhindern. Computerbesitzer sollen gezwungen werden, Windows zu nutzen.”

Matthias Kirschner
Unterstütze Freie Software! Trete dem Fellowship bei!