FSFE supporters Vienna

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freie.it at conference on 21st of February

Saturday, February 28th, 2015
freie.it - Computer Support for Free Software
Gespräche am Infostand
Leute nahmen bereitwillig und interessiert unser Infomaterial
Viele Besuche den ganzen Tag über

freie.it is a web platform founded by some members of the Viennese Fellowship group of the FSFE. It aims to help people who are interested in using free software but who do not want to administrate their own computers. At least in Austria all support offers for free software users are aimed at businesses. Therefore only techically interested private people could start using free software in the past if they didn’t happen know others well aquainted with free software willing to help them. To close this gap free.it offers a simple search field to type in buzz words. After submitting the form a list of people knowledgeable with this subjects on free software systems is displayed. People searching for help then can browse through this results and can contact the persons they want to consult. The platform is merely a way to connect people. So all terms can be defined by the people interacting with each other. Some people offer help on a voluntary basis. Others will help for a fee. The only condition for experts offering their services on the platform is the preference of free software.

The team of freie.it invites free software experts to create a profile. After applying to be listed the team reviews the profile and releases the experts to be listed on the platform. At the moment freie.it is in it’s trial phase and does offer services in Vienna only. If everything works out as intended the local restriction can be left behind. Even others can get the freely licenced python code on bitbucket and offer similar services independently.

On 21st of February freie.it was invited to participate as one of 50 initiatives on a conference about wellbeing for all (Gutes Leben für alle). The project was explicitly invited because we applied in a contest a few months ago. The contest aimed to choose the best ideas for sustainable and fair development in our society. freie.it didn’t win anything back then, but the organizers of the conference still wanted us to participate at the conferences fair of initiatives.

Originally the organizers aimed to welcome about 250 people at the recently build new campus of the Viennese universitiy for economics. But in a very short period of time everything was overbooked and in the end about 850 registrations exceeded all expectations. A young assistent from the university told me about a little group of alternative thinkers at the university responsible for such events. Normally nobody would expect the university of economics to host such an event. But some people obviously could move something even in this traditionally not very progressive environment.

The fair of initiatives covered a lot of different subjects. The majority was about better ways to use and share our ressources. There was a focus on local initiatives for connecting people with different ressources and/or skills. Over all freie.it was received very well. The audience was open in a very similar way than the visitors of the Veganmania summer festivals we attended in the last years with a boot of the Viennese Fellowship group of the FSFE. They where open to consider free software as an alternative and did quickly understand the problems with closed standards and proprietary software production. One difference to the people met on the Veganmania summer festivals was the big user base of Apple computers. I think I never met a target group with more individuals using Apple products. I would guess at least eighty percent of the many people I talked to at the event told me to use OSX from Apple.

We set up our very little boot as one of the first initiatives at about 10 am. Even if we had more leaflets, folders and stickers on free software and open standards than any other initiative on other subjects we had only about 60 x 30 centimeters space on a table. It was tightly packed with colorful, inviting material. We could only put our books about free software on display in the late afternoon after some initiatives left and we could use the only then spare space on the table. We where quite buzy the whole day with many interested people and shortly after 9pm we packed everything together and left the venue because it got closed up.

Even if we could not reach tousands of people (like on events such as the Game City fair) I still think it was very well worth taking the time since the quality of our conversations was very high and we still could introduce many people to the virtues of free software.

Three Autumn events 2014

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Unfortunately (or luckily?) the Fellowship group was this Autumn so very busy we couldn’t keep up with writing reports. Our work included a traditional Software Freedom Day booth on 20th of September, three and a half days booth and a workshop for Free Software especially for activists on the biggest German speaking animal rights conference, which took place from 9th to 12th October – and at the same time a hugely impressive three days booth marathon with the local business spielend programmieren at the Game City fair in the mayors house from 10th to 12th October. 69,000 people visited the Game City fair and about 4,000 specifically designed leaflets about free games where spread there, not counting our other information material.

The Software Freedom Day booth was very similar to the other booths we did in the DFD and SFD events before. We where happy to note we are increasingly encountering more and more people already familiar with free software. Many did not only hear of it but deliberately are using it. We get the impression being present in public places over and over again slowly makes a difference. Therefore we had many constructive discussions – even if this time not so many people floated our usual spot at the shopping street. Probably because of a huge building place along the shopping street less people where present.

About 450 people visited the animal rights conference. Since most of them are somewhat used to critical thinking and to deviate from the common path this audience is remarkably receptive to the idea of free software. Because of that the workshop on free software for activists was very well received. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough information material since the people visiting the workshop afterwards unexpectedly stormed the information desk and wanted to take more than was available due to the fact that most material was at the much larger Game City fair at this time. I urgently need to restock my business cards to give people at least any contact they could turn to if they have any questions.
An other important contribution was the catalogue for the art exhibition which was part of the conference. It has German and English text, was done with free software only and was the best selling item at the conference book desk. The last page on the inside is dedicated to free software, therefore remembering everyone not only to respect life, but as well to care about software freedom.

Our volunteers at the Game City fair had great creative ideas as well: Since the small no budget booth on free software had to compete with the expensive shiny presentation booths of the biggest corporations in the gaming business we decided to avoid competing concerning high end graphics or polished full featured game experiences. We decided it would be best as well for pointing out the most important virtues of free games to concentrate on independence, adaptability and the possibility to game on older hardware. These proofed to be the right concept since most free software projects never reach enough funding to invest in high end graphics anyway. Our team even came up with ideas to turn our disadvantages to advantages. We didn’t had enough time upfront to thoroughly proofread our new leaflet. Therefore we asked the visitors of our booth to read through it and gave them rewards in form of small chocolate treats for finding any error. This not only was a good test by lots of eyes, but as well gave them a good reason to really read our information texts. Luckily we didn’t miss many typos anyway. An other great idea was to invite people to take photographs in front of our banners and/or with our information material. Photo models got a treat as well. Beside that Horst had an other good idea to promote net neutrality by giving visitors the choice between holding up three different signs with statements on the subject when they got photographed. Only one decided to take a stand against net neutrality. Countless visitors most likely had their first encounter with this subject and made their first ever public display of an opinion.

We can honestly claim this was the most active and successful Autumn for our local Fellowship group ever. This was only possible thanks to our dedicated volunteers. Especially the great booth at the Game City fair was only available because of Horst from spielend programmieren. He has built up a business by educating children how to program. Since he is an advocate for software freedom he does this with free software only. His concept of doing this by using free games has proven to be very intuitive and fun. He took our group under his wing by letting us use his expensive booth for free in the last years at the Game City fair. Following up on his initiative this time we reached a new level of professionalism and target group optimised presence because of our leaflet on free games. Horst as well wrote a long report (German) with many pictures on the event. He as well put the folder on free games on Git hub. (You can find a link to the source files in the referenced article.)

The photo collage (the third picture on the right) was taken from Horsts great report on the Game City event.

Booth on the vegan summer festival in Vienna, 2014

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

From 6th to 9th of June 2014 the Veganmania took place in Vienna. It was the 17th time in this city and was larger and went on for longer than ever before. Like last year, the local FSFE fellowship group organized an information booth there, as different organisations are welcome to take part in the festival. So, besides enjoying lots of vegan food, clothes, books and live music surprisingly many people used the opportunity to find out about the possibilities for independence on their own computers offered by free software.

A real booth marathon

Each day the festival went on from 10am to 10pm. Some of our most active fellows maintained the booth through all four days and could hardly find time for even very short breaks since so many people where eager to ask questions about free software. The demand was so high that sometimes interested people unfortunately lost patience and went away before our Fellows could speak to them. (Next year we should probably coordinate ourselves better so that we have more people running the booth all the time.)

Hundreds of leaflets and contact cards where handed out and incredibly many consultations took place. Therefore the success of this booth was even greater than the already stunningly successful booth from last year. This once more confirms our experience, that using such events as a platform to spread the word about free software and its virtues is highly effective. Especially because we can reach so many people who have been completely unaware of software freedom so far, this booth is an excellent time (and resource) investment.


Unlike last year, we didn’t provide free distro discs. Instead we handed out leaflets (SVG source file) explaining differences between ten of the most common GNU/Linux distributions, containing links to download pages. This was also a good decision. Not only did we save on preparation time and money compared to last year, but our leaflet provided even more help for people wanting to dive into the universe of free software.


Most people were especially impressed by the possibility to install a second (more trustworthy) operating system on their hard disc without the need to hand out additional data or to pay some abstract sum of money to any corporation. They responded very well to the idea that they could test a live CD and carry on using their old system unempeded even after installing the new alternative.

Most people feel they can ask more knowledgeable friends if they encounter computer problems when using Windows or OSX, but expect to get stuck with problems if they use alternative, less known software. For this reason, our local project for making free software experts findable via a simple online form on test.freie.it, received a lot of attention and good feedback. Even if we are still in the testing phase, the page works already and can put people at ease who are worried about ending up with unsolvable problems if they start using free software.

Press coverage

Our little information booth even managed to get noticed by national and local media. They didn’t report on it in detail and left out the term “free software”, but the journalists obviously got the most important message: Free software is all about independence on computers. They didn’t even confuse our message by calling it “open source” or “Freeware”, so obviously we did something right:

Document Freedom Day in Vienna 2014

Friday, March 28th, 2014
Our borrowed bike for heavy loadsOur desk in front of the memorial after removing our postersOur booth in direct sun lightIn the afternoon different Fellows joined us for some time

On Wednesday the 26th of March the Viennese Fellowship group of the FSFE celebrated the yearly Document Freedom Day with an information stall in our main shopping street again. We started at 10am and stayed until 7pm. Even if it wasn’t very warm, at least there was no strong wind or rain. Occasionally we even could enjoy direct sunshine. At dusk, people couldn’t easily scan our leaflets anymore in order to decide if they want one or not. We dismantled our stall after it went completely dark.

Beside a super huge package of the official DFD information material provided by the FSFE we spread additional leaflets that our regional group had designed especially for this event. Even if we also used the left over small A6 leaflets from last year, having even more leaflets was quite a good idea since we ran out of this year’s official DFD folders by lunch time.

Instead of discs with copies of GNU/Linux distributions this time we provided a leaflet with basic information about differences between 10 of the most popular free software distributions. It also contains download links. This not only made our preparation less time consuming, but cut the costs for our stall considerably without making our material less useful.

Another positive aspect of not providing distribution discs anymore is the smaller environmental impact of our material. We are not convinced that our discs had much effect on the readiness of people to try out free software, after all, who installs software obtained from strangers on the street? Of much greater value might be some easy to understand information on what distribution people new to free software should choose. At least in Austria most people use broadband Internet connections and own computers with the possibility to download and burn their own installation media. Besides, nowadays many people can not use discs since their devices lack an optical drive.

Spread over the day we were visited from four very friendly police officers. Two of them were quite interested and talked to us about free software and open standards for quite a while and also took some information material with them.

Surprisingly many tourists were interested. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much English material to share with them. Generally, most people instantly got our main argument for open standards and free software. We talked about independence on our own personal computers. We shouldn’t depend on companies when we want to access and share data.

The artist Ulrike Truger created the stone monument against police brutality behind our stall. A friend of hers dropped by and made a big fuss about the fact that we used its plain surface to temporarily stick up our DFD posters. Via mobile, the artist herself demanded that we remove our posters at once. This is very strange since Truger has, more than once, erected huge monuments illegaly without public consent. Why does she think she can permanently occupy public space for her cause with a five ton heavy stone but demand from us that we stay away at all times? Our cause to liberate all of us from hostile power concentrations is not less worthy and we would have removed our posters a few hours later without leaving any trace anyway. I think it is a good thing to have such a monument but the artist shouldn’t consider her causes worthier and more important than all other possible concerns.

Luckily most people where very happy to find us there and we got a lot of vocal support for our work – even after we had removed our posters fom the huge stone. The stall lasted for 9 hours and I thank all supporters for their help and patience. Together we can change the world for the better, no matter how strange some people might behave.

Do we need DRM?

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

How to finance content creation

Today, only very few musicians can feed themselves with what they earn from their work. The great majority has to make an income some other way. Collecting societies don’t help here – even if they make a lot of profit and limit seriously what signed up artists are allowed to do.

In my view, the main problem with charging for information (music, art, news, etc.) today is not even the the fact that it doesn’t work reliable. My main concern is that you can only charge for information if you artificially limit access.

The Good times

In the past, selling media was the most sensible and comfortable way to make a wide range of information accessible to the public. Selling tapes and discs was liberating because it made content available. Back then it was a really good thing and in the public interest to provide such media.

Today, we do not need tapes or discs any more. Content is available via Internet instantly 24/7. Everybody can access, copy and store huge amounts of data without noteworthy financial burden. If you publish something, it’s just out there. Content providers don’t need to make costly copies and expensive deliveries any more. Everybody can copy and share content world-wide almost for free. We don’t need any external service for that any more. Nobody needs to invest a lot to get access or to share. This is an amazing new opportunity. Great ideas can spread very fast without the traditionally costly and painful burden of getting it delivered to everyone interested in it. Through technology we are much more independent nowadays.

A problem

Sounds like a win-win situation, doesn’t it? Here comes the problem: Copying and delivering didn’t cost that much lately. It was very good business selling media, since the only large expense was a fixed price: content creation. All other costs were quite low. The more copies you sold, the smaller the production cost part on every single copy was. We were prepared to buy even quite overpriced copies since it didn’t make any difference for us if we alone or many others bought it. The value for us as individuals stays more or less the same. But selling as many copies as possible is quite important to the suppliers. It defines their financial gain more than anything else. When every day personal computers began to enable us to make our own copies, we discovered that expensive official copies didn’t offer any advantage over our much cheaper personal copies.

But, if nobody needs official copies any more who is going to pay for the production? Even if you don’t invest anything in spreading the final content: the production costs stick.

If we insist on selling content to generate income, this undeniably causes a financial problem in this setting. You can’t sell access if everybody has access by default. Therefore, as a precondition for selling access you need to actively block access for all people but those who pay. This is what DRM does. You are not paying for content, you are paying for not being actively denied access. DRM is much more like blackmailing, than like paying for a service you want. You practically pay for not being denied your freedom to use up-to-date technology. Why should we allow anybody to charge us something for not standing in our way? We do not need a service to defect our devices. We just want access. And today, after something is published, access is just a given.


Are we really that devoid of ideas? Is it really necessary to cripple our technical development just because we are not prepared to finance content creators some other way? It’s like the whole industry lives in denial and presses us all for money. We shouldn’t support a business model which forces us to cripple our technology and to fall short of what we could do with it.

In my opinion it’s just not a valid option to carry on as if technology hasn’t changed. We need to face it: It’s not like it was before. We should embrace and develop great technologies like file sharing instead of standing in our own way.

I don’t have all the answers, but I can clearly see that there is no need for selling content any more. That was yesterday. We need to finance content creators through other means.

A chance

The best alternative concept I have seen so far is the possibility to directly support projects, artists and other content creators work, for example, via crowd funding. This is viable because nowadays we have the technology to connect with them directly. We, as a society, are not yet used to it, but I’m confident we will learn soon enough once the outdated financing model gets out of the way. We need to get rid of DRM.

Of course this new way has consequences. Not all of them are good for everyone. If we suggest direct crowd funding as the main approach for content creators, they would have to do their own fund raising. Only a few would be happy and/or successful in doing this. Most creative people for sure would prefer to outsource this task. But only those with an already sustaining income could contract someone else for helping out with fund raising. Newcomers would have a hard time in this regard. Just like right now.

I see some promising developments like Jamendo for example already. It’s like Lawrence Lessig describes the history of technology development and content industry in his books. For instance, when radio technology threatened the huge music labels through broadcasting. People started to listen to the radio instead of buying records. The labels charged more and more for broadcasting. At some point it was just too much. Radio stations stopped playing expensive songs from famous artists who had contracts with those labels. Instead they started to play songs from other artists not represented by those labels.

As in the past, a new scene is growing today outside the established structures. Sharing content freely is the emerging new way. I’m confident that old timers need to adapt or they will vanish. The most prominent example of a successful musician heading this way is probably Amanda Palmer.

Strange laws

In Austria, we are charged double the amount for empty media than they are in Germany. The content industry has obviously convinced our politicians to collect this absurdly huge tax which goes to collecting societies. As a result, they don’t even need to find and sue people for copying copyright protected content. By default, they just get half of the money made by selling empty media. They collect a large fixed amount for the potential to illegally store copyright protected material on empty media. It’s like an already made deal: I have paid for it, so why shouldn’t I do it? But I don’t want to break stupid laws. I want to have laws I can respect for their sanity. And I don’t want to support bodies I see no value in. What if the content industry offers nothing I value? Why should I still pay for it?

But how do collecting societies decide which artists get which amount of money? At events, venues are encouraged to explicitly list what music they are going to play. But very often this seems too complicated and the collecting societies are just asked to charge a flat rate. It’s completely up to collecting societies to decide who gets what. Since in Austria we only have one big collecting society, there isn’t much of a choice in who to trust with this vital administrative task.

What about quality?

I think most content is crap. Regardless of whether we look at proprietary or free content. Proprietary content might be more polished since it gets more funding at the moment. But does this translate into better content quality? Look at large news agencies in comparison to non commercial blogs or independent films in comparison to Hollywood action blockbusters! Even if we are told over and over again otherwise: Quality has nothing to do with the way of financing content creation. Of course solid funding makes it easier to create value content, but on the other hand business considerations very often get in the way of content quality.

Should free software support DRM?

From my point of view DRM clearly isn’t something free software should get involved with since it’s all about locking things down. As free software has the aim of liberating people, this is a clear contradiction. Profit is not one of the main goals of free software. But freedom, independence and accessibility are very important aspects. Indeed, the free software movement makes a strong case for social fairness. It’s for sure not very social to make information deliberately inaccessible to all those who can not afford to pay enough – especially if nobody would be deprived of something just because others can access the same data.

Creating valuable content for sure is a worthy occupation and people should be enabled to create it, but trying to do this by ignoring the fact that information can be shared freely without depriving anyone, is just the wrong way to approach this. Information doesn’t get less valuable if more people have it. Usually the opposite is the case.

Technology enables us to interact with content creators directly, no matter where they are. Therefore we no longer have any good reason to use a huge body between creators and recipients. We can decide to directly sustain those whose work we value. We need no middle man to optimize this simple idea. A network with clearly attributed creators and reliable easy transfer opportunities for content, messages and money is enough. We just need to get used to it.

We will understand our role in financing what we want if we experience the consequences of our decisions. Will we enable those who we want to carry on? If we don’t, they won’t be able to produce more work. It’s that easy. Maybe we are still too distracted by the complexity of the traditional financing models to fully grasp the beauty of this new simplicity.

It’s like free software: If we want it, we need to support it in what ever way we can. Money isn’t the only opportunity, but it’s very easy to manage…

Panel discussion on repression

Saturday, February 15th, 2014
Discussion panelDiscussion panel

Today I visited a panel discussion on repression against civil political activists, mainly against refugees. From 3 to 6pm two lawers, a retired journalist and three activists spoke in the NIG building of the Viennese university about their experiences and how important public opinion/control is in political trials.

Journalists are often under pressure to present what advertising clients or media owners prefer. They are not only dependant on the funding of influential persons or institutions, but in many cases they themselves are even threatened with being put on trial if they dare to investigate or publish the truth about corruption or other abuses of power.

In Turkey there are more journalists in prison than in China or Iraq. Even lawers in Turkey face trial for nothing more than carrying out their regular work if they represent critics of the state. Refugees in Austria on the other hand, often have to cope for many years as applicants for a legal refugee status with only very basic rights and almost no opportunities. They are also under constant theat of being deported. In this situation it’s vital to stay in control of what information is reaching third parties.

The case against 13 animal rights activists in Austria serves as a very good example of how important e-mail encryption can be. In the one year trial activists had to explain the meaning and context of parts of their private online conversations dating back over nearly two decades which had been deliberately taken out of context by the prosecution. Those who didn’t use free software and e-mail encryption already, started to do so after this experience. And even after many years of painfully wasted time and expensive trial days it isn’t over: They are accused of coercing fur selling companies into pulling out of the fur trade by announcing completely legal public awareness campaigns.

As a supporter of free software I instantly assumed this audiance would be perfect for learning about the advantages concerning independency and data protection by using free software. Unfortunately I only heard about this event the evening before. Therefore I couldn’t contact the organisers beforehand and I had only limited information material available. Most of our leaflets have been spread in the past already.

Unfortunately the time schedule with so many people eager to present their perspectives was too tight. Under normal conditions I would have asked related questions in order to let people know about the special virtues of free software for political activists, but this time there was hardly any time for questions.

Our leaflets where available and on display right beside the exit door. So even if I didn’t have the chance to tell people anything, they had the chance to easily pick up what ever leaflets caught their attention.

FSFE booth on Game City Fair 2013 in Vienna

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

From Friday 27th to Sunday 29th of September the annual Game City Fair took place in the city hall of Vienna. With about 67,500 visitors, it was an even bigger event than last year. Not only hopeful startups but also the most important companies from the gaming industry showed off their newest games and technologies. In the middle of all this we had, for the second time, a small, but very vibrant booth informing people about free software, open standards and independence in the digital age.

Some activists from the local FSFE fellowship group accepted Horst Jens’ generous offer to present our cause in his expensive display area for free. Horst, from spielend-programmieren.at, teaches people how to program by helping them to develop their first own computer games with free software. Normally he starts with the language python because this is a perfect match for learning since it forces programmers to format their source code in a way that is easy to read for everyone.

Even in the direct presence of the shiny presentation booths of world leading entertainment companies, right from the start on Friday morning countless people where very interested in privacy, free software and free development of software – especially games of course. We where active from 10am to 7pm each day and hardly ever had a spare moment to relax. At times we couldn’t even direct enough attention to all the people eager to talk to us.

We experienced especially high demand for all information on the free your android-campaign. Unfortunately we already ran out of folders on that issue on Friday. At least the additional posters, flyers and tiny mobile stickers helped us through the rest of the event. Next year we should bring a lot more folders (if we manage to get a free display area again). On Friday night we made another 300 copies of our black and white folder on free software in general in order to satisfy the demand for the days ahead.

Since we unfortunately very soon exhausted all distro discs we had made so far, we also need to find a good solution to share free software in the future. We still haven’t got around to investigating the possibilities with USB sticks further.

Compared to last year at this fair we experienced a remarkable growth in interest. We also met many more people familiar with the concepts of free software and who already use Cyanogen Mod on their android devices for example. Nevertheless, a lot of people had their first encounter with the idea of free software and where happy to take a distro disc with them after we explained the basic concepts and advantages of free software. Of course, some free stuff hunters dropped by as well, but we managed to give even some of those a glimpse of the idea of open standards and the political concepts of free software.

The steam box was an important subject on our booth. Many people shared different insights on it with us. Apparently the steam box is a specially adapted ubuntu based GNU/Linux distribution. Big gaming companies have already begun to offer their newest blockbuster games for the steam box. It looks like it will be the new console hype. Some games can be streamed from an other desktop system, but others will naturally run on the steam box. Therefore we can expect that this will be a welcome push for making graphic and sound card drivers available on free software. Even if these games are only rarely developed and distributed as free software, this new development could lead to a serious push of GNU/Linux for two reasons:

  1. In the past many gamers argued that they needed Windows to run the newest games. With wide support for new state of the art games on the steam box this no longer is the case.
  2. Instantly having drivers for the most recent graphic and sound cards could be an argument for many people to seriously consider GNU/Linux as a working alternative to totally proprietary operating systems. Even if those drivers are not free software this could widen the user base of free software considerably. It could be the first step to free software and the appreciation of free software philosophy for a lot of people.

But the great success of our booth is not limited to statistics. This weekend we might have attracted the youngest FSFE fellow so far. He wants to become a programmer and spontaneously supported our booth for two full days as someone directly inviting people to try out free software games on the system Horst set up on the booth. He was not only introducing them into the controls, but informed them about the philosophical background and was showing the 3D animation program Blender. This is how another young guy, who really knew Blender very well, came to join us for many hours and showed live how well Blender works as a professional 3D program. We hope these two stick around and become regular members of our fellowship group.

Overall we invited many people to join our monthly meetings in the Metalab and to become fellows of the FSFE. Since we met a lot of quite experienced free software users we had lots of opportunities to invite them to our support platform freie.it. We hope to have gathered enough experts for the usual support demands to get active with the platform in a few months.

The Game City Fair for sure is a remarkably good place to present free software and the FSFE. We will try to find a way to have an other booth next year again. It isn’t clear yet how this could work since Horst might not be able to host us for an other year. Maybe we can activate some contacts into the city government and get a free display area as a NPO in the public interest.

We are very thankful to Horst and all activists who supported our weekend booth marathon. It definitely was worth the effort.

Software Freedom Day 2013 in Vienna

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

On Saturday 21th September the FSFE fellowship group Vienna held an information booth in Vienna’s most prominent shopping street. Despite short rain showers occurring all day long we began at about 10:30am and finished at 7:30pm. At times we needed to protect the leaflets with our jackets, but overall we had good feedback and many interesting conversations. Up to three free software advocates ran our booth.

Surprisingly many people had heard of free software before. In most cases people quickly understood our concerns about dependence on big corporations and governments. Many wanted to take a free sample of our operating system DVDs right away. We had our own FSFE fellowship editions of Debian, openSuse, Fedora and Trisquel DVDs. Additionally we brought some of our private copies of very good books featuring free software and free culture for display.

We are considering producing USB sticks with some free software distributions to give out to people for a small donation in order to avoid one way discs and to add an additional value to the media we give out. We could possibly make a FSFE branded stick to gain additional attention through people using them.

Some people asked us for posters. We where able to give away the robots poster from last DFD, but we didn’t have the requested Fedora poster. Next time we should probably organise distro posters and t-shirts.

As we set up our stall in front of a memorial and used it to hang up our SFD-posters we had some discussions with people who felt this to be inappropriate. It was the Marcus Omofuma memorial which is dedicated to a black Nigerian man who got choked to death in 2003 during his deportation flight to Bulgaria whilst in the custody of Austrian police. The 5 meter high black stone memorial was originally illegally placed in front of the well known Vienna Opera House. The government couldn’t remove it without provoking a public outcry. Therefore one month later it was moved from the Opera to the shopping street where we set up our booth.

In our discussions we could even use this controversial point to refer to the importance of civil rights and free speech and it’s direct connection to free software. Marcus Omofuma probably would have supported free software since it is an important instrument to allow free speech in modern society. Even the memorial itself originally was placed without any permission.

An older man, living high up in a building near our stall saw our posters on the memorial and came down to visit us. He told us that he had had difficulties with installing free software on his two computers. He reported that it got stuck in an error message late in the installation process just before the desktop should start. He took some of our distro disks with him in order to have an other try.

We invited many people to our monthly fellowship meetings and encouraged them to become FSFE fellowship members.

We asked people with advanced knowledge in the field of free software if they were interested in our local project to make free software experts accessible for private free software users. We set up a new association and web page called: freie.it where we bring experts willing to support private free software users together (with or without charging for it). The web page is designed for people who value the virtues of free software, but do not have the motivation to learn more about how computer systems work at all. It is meant to give end users a means to easily find experts willing to help them with free software issues. The web page just offers the possibility to search for experts relevant to the entered search terms. Visitors get a list of these experts that they can then contact for help. The project isn’t public yet. We are still in the testing phase and want to go public when we have enough experts to give visitors satisfying results for the most frequent issues ordinary users want help with.

After packing up we celebrated the Software Freedom Day in the excellent vegetarian restaurant Harvest. Due to a newly forming fellowship group in Linz some of our colleagues went there in order to support a similar booth. Therefore we were fewer people in Vienna this year. Nevertheless, we managed to have a successful SFD in Vienna as well.

Booth at Veganmania in Vienna 2013

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

On 8th and 9th of June 2013 the Vienna fellowship group of the FSFE organised an information booth at the Austrian vegan society’s summer festival. This year’s festival was the 16th and, as always, welcomed visitors from all over Austria and quite a few guests from other countries too.

On the run up to the festival it looked dangerously like it wasn’t going to work out very well due to the awful weather – In the days before there was heavy rainfall causing floods all over central Europe. Fortunately, the days of the festival, and only those days, saw perfect weather: It was warm and sunny. According to official estimations – about 9000 people visited the festival.

For our booth we ordered new leaflets from the German headquarters and, as before, we prepared free software operating system discs. This time we made more than 200 pieces with five different distributions: Ubuntu 12.04 (for absolute beginners), Debian 7.0, openSUSE 12.3, Fedora 18 and Trisquel 6.0 (for experts).

Our little booth was at the centre of the festival area directly opposite the main beverage stand. At times most areas were too crowded for comfortable walking or standing. Nevertheless, our booth, even at those hectic times, provided a calm little corner, which was obviously inviting for people to stop by. We can say without doubt that our spot was one of the best.

On both days we set up our booth at about 9am and packed up at about 10pm. Starting from about midday it was hard to take a break because there were always people very interested in our subject of independence on computers and mobile phones. On no other of our quite successful booths before have we had so many engaging talks with people who had been unfamiliar with free software before, but who were instantly very interested in giving it a try.

This time we made sure that we didn’t just give away random discs to anyone willing to take something for free. We evaluated the knowledge level and explained the basic concepts of free software and even the history of why we insist on the term free instead of open and GNU/Linux instead of Linux. Our visitors listened very carefully to our explanations about why free software can’t always work on any proprietary hardware and why open file formats are the saner way to share digital data.

Like always in such situations, one of the most frequent questions was about, the nowadays unexpected fact, of how something good and reliable can be given out for free. We narrowed the wide field of possibilities down to two main ways that free software emerges: The first route is paying programmers to write something needed, but not yet existing (without the plan to sell the result afterwards). The second explanation refers to all those programmers unsatisfied with writing crippled proprietary software in their jobs, since many of them just want to prove to themselves (and others) how well their programs could work if there was no need to ensure that workflows are profitable for companies.

In numbers we handed out fewer discs than at other occasions such as DFD or SFD, but I’m sure we got a lot more about our core concerns across.

Looking back on both days, I’d like to say, that Veganmania seems to be by far the best kind of event for our booth. At Linux weeks and similar events most of the people are not very interested since they believe they know everything that they need to know about free software already. It makes more sense and reaches more people when we have a booth in a shopping street. As far as Veganmania is concerned, it seems that people there are generally open to thinking critically and therefore, more willing to try out something new in order to limit the control of corporations and governments.

We even got invited to have our booth at the large vegan summer festival in Zagreb in September.

New material

Feel free to use and adapt our information material as you please:

DVD/CD cover (for DIN A4 sheets, extended with openSUSE)
DVD/CD label (for printable disc, extended with openSUSE)
Basic free software introduction (DIN A3 poster)
Distro information sheet (DIN A3 poster)


You can open images in full size by clicking on it. (Unfortunately the quality of the images is very limited due to a very old digi-cam.)


Document Freedom Day Vienna 2013

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

On March 27th the FSFE fellowship group in Vienna organised an information booth on the corner of Mariahilfer Straße / Museumsquartier. From 10am to 7pm, a group of around 8 activists handed out leaflets and discs with various GNU/Linux distributions.

In the morning we set up our information booth in the snow. During the day however, the sun occasionally came out and managed to melt most of the snow away.

Even though temperatures where very low and most people on the street wanted to keep their time outside to a minimum, we managed to give out impressive amounts of information material and free software discs: over 1,500 leaflets and more than 450 discs with openSUSE, Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and Trisquel live systems found interested individuals.

We did not only depend on the leaflets and discs from the official DFD promo package and the FSFE headquarter in Germany, but also added several leaflets and discs, that our own team had put together. This way, even people who only received a distro disk, also got additional information with it, since we had written basic facts about the virtues of free software and the FSFE on our self made packaging. We also organised badges as a give-away in order to promote free standards even further. Of course, these materials (linked at the bottom of this page) are all free to use and adapt.

An important addition to our resources was the generous parcel containing, amongst other items, 300 DVDs from openSUSE. The green openSUSE posters where eye-catchers and their t-shirts made visitors very happy. Thanks to the Mozilla project we could offer e. g. much loved attractive Firefox stickers and I support the Open Web bracelets.

The company Wiener Linien provides public transport in Vienna. Since the Government has a freedom of information act and since Wiener Linien is publicly funded we collected signatures to demand public access to all service information. Only a few days later Wiener Linien announced that they would make all data accessible by summer of this year.

We decided to celebrate the DFD by running a booth in the busy shopping area because we didn’t only want to reach people already informed about the issue. With most activities it is hard to reach people outside the free software community, therefore a booth in a busy shopping street is a good way to communicate with a wider audience. We had lots of opportunities to talk to people who had little or no prior knowledge of open standards and free software.

Surprisingly, many women in their twenties were very interested and wanted to know more. This contradicts the common perception that only men care about technology and its consequences.

Needless to say, some old hands dropped by as well. We even encountered a tourist who told us that he had been using Unix for a long time and that his company was one of the founders of the OSI. He mentioned that despite being retired, he still has fun tinkering with free software and he took a live disc of a distribution that he was not familiar with.

Our thanks go out to all those who helped make this very successful event possible.

We are looking forward to software freedom day in September.


Feel free to use and adapt our information material as you please:

leaflet explaining some basics about open standards
free file formats and the opensource-DVD
small batches to promote open standards (English)
free software introduction folder
free software introduction folder (black and white)
DVD/CD cover (for DIN A4 sheets)
DVD/CD cover cutting/folding instruction
DVD/CD label (for printable discs)


You can open images in full size by clicking on it. (Unfortunately the quality of the images is very limited due to a very old digi-cam.)