I want to trust

Recently terrible things happened in Paris and Beiruth when soldiers of IS killed or badly injured several hundred human beings and brought fear over our society. Enough was, is and will be written about those events, so I’ll stop here. I want to talk about something, that has already jumped the shark a long time ago: Us trusting each other.

I was born in the former GDR, spearhead of the soviet union. Not to give away the information that we sometimes watch TV from western Germany was one major advise my parents gave to me while i was in kindergarden. They weren’t in opposition to the regime, they just liked the entertainment delivered by western media to them and us children, still they where afraid of repression. Furthermore I remember being told not to trust some particular neighbours, because they might have been spies of Stasi (they didn’t call them that way but from what I learned later they definitivly meant it). When the Berlin Wall came down I was six years old and already knew a lot about suspicion and how to mistrust other people.

After 1990, now being citizen of the western world, my focus of mistrust moved. Now it was all pedophiles that wanted to molest me. I fortunally survived the nineties unmolested, dropped out of school and started my so called adult life.

On September, 11 2001 I was working self-employed from my home listening to the radio (like on most other days). Suddenly there was a report about a plane crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, USA. I was pretty surprised that such a thing could happen again (I had heard about USA’s own B25 plane that once crashed into Empire State Building) and at that point of time there was still a chance that it was an accident. The situation changed quickly after the second plane went into the other tower. The rest is part of our history. From that on muslim countries and their people were no longer trustworthy, as our western media told us. Cold War propaganda, nice to meet you again!

Back in 2001 I didn’t know a single muslim person neither had had any contact with islamic culture. I had grown up with the socialist version of christian values, knew Jews as victims of the nazi regime (which made me very angry anyway) and my world view was as simple as Neonazis are shitheads and I want all people to be happy.

It was also about this time when I got into touch with the Free Software community, largely by using and breaking GNU/Linux. It was a very multi-cultural experience from the beginning and I really appreciated it. People from all over the world sharing a common goal over the Internet, working together to make the world a better place. While it still took me ten more years to join the FSFE as a Fellow, those early, mostly technical motivated contacts touched and changed me in a deep way. I cannot remember a single setback with any of those fine people. Most of them I never met in person but when we did it always was a huge joy. I am so happy, that even nowadays with Open-Source being corporate mainstream, this didn’t change much. I still add former unknows as friends every time I participate in a Free Software event and that’s such a great thing.

I don’t want to sound too naive. Outside of our Free Software community comfort zone I am an ordinary, perhaps even above-average paranoid person. During the last decade I started to distrust the government more and more. “Free-of-cost” Services in the Internet make me nervous and I try to avoid them whenever possible. I hate being tracked or spied on, no matter by whom, no matter how concrete. Edward Snowden confirmed and largely extended what I already suspected.

Our governments weaken our freedom and privacy after every terrorist attack in the name of security which they cannot provide. I am sure, on a global scale, they don’t want to be evil, but they always make things worse and fail to add any additional protection for us people. Terrorist attacks aim to destroy our way of life and our leaders help them most of the time, probably out of the desire to do anything at all.

I’m kind of proud of how we (apart from the shitheads) handled the European Migrants Crisis up until now and i am really afraid that the recent happenings in Paris will harm those poor people who come to the EU risking their lives to seek shelter from the very same people that try to terrorize us all even more. It already started again. Some people (and politicians) blame the refugees, demand more surveillance and kill freedom and privacy bit by bit. The governments distrust their people, their people distrust the governments and when we have finished, there will be no more foundation for any kind of society (apart from dictatorship of course).

I wish for a world that is like the Free Software community. Trust shall be the standard, misconduct shall lead to disappointment, not confirmation of prejudice! Trust shall not be confused with having no secrets. To be allowed having secrets is the ultimate proof of trust. Trust shall be our way of live and let live. I want to trust.

My Report from FSCONS ’15

My daughter and me just arrived back from Gothenburg where we had attended FSCONS, the Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit.We went there to run FSFE’s booth and enjoy the wonderful city.

It was a joyful weekend for the two of us. We arrived in Gothenburg on Thursday and spent the Friday at Alfons Åberg Kulturhus, a venue for children in Gothenburg dedicated to the fictional boy Alfons Åberg created by Gunilla Bergström. Alfons Åberg is known by other names in other languages, you might have heard of Willi Wiberg if you are german or Alfie Atkins if you grew up with english.

Panel discussion with Ken MacLeod
Panel discussion with Ken MacLeod Christian Kalkhoff CC BY-SA
In the evening we went to Gothenburg’s city library to hear a SciFi themed panel discussion with FSCONS’ keynote speaker Ken MacLeod and meet people from FSCONS. My daughter already had fallen asleep when we did arrive so I was
able to get the full talk. Unfortunally (for us) this years Friday evening event was moved to an Irish Pub, but as i was told, some Volunteers already worked hard to make FSCONS happen. So we went to the Humanisten where FSCONS was going to happen and said Hej to  the hard-working volunteers.

Unfortunally I learned on Friday that FSFE’s Guido was not able to reach Gothenburg because of the Lufthansa strike and that we further wouldn’t be able to get the parcels with stuff sent to Sweden because of problems with the postal service. This was pretty disappointing, but things could have been worse…

On Saturday us FSFE people met at FSCONS. We hadn’t met in person before but as it happens so often in this wonderful community we liked each other at first sight. We built our booth with flyers and stickers that had still been in Gothenburg from the previous year and. set up our FSFE banner, so it shined over the whole foyer.

Freedom Banner
Freedom Banner Christian Kalkhoff CC BY-SA
Despite we weren’t able to do merchandising we had quite a lot of conversations with the people attending FSCONS. We told them about FSFE, our work or the Fellowship. My personal success story on Saturday was to introduce a woodwork teacher, who just hung around at the university, to the idea of Free Software.When he asked what was all the fuss about, I told him about FSCONS and Free Software. He was quite fascinated by the idea and came to the conclusion that it was a good thing. He mentioned, that beneath the freedom the no-cost aspect is important to the schools because they are quiet broke and can’t spend money on licenses. They already use Free Software like Firefox and Libreoffice and now he also knows about the ethical and social concept behind it.

This year’s FSCONS provided lunch but not dinner, so we family folks had to leave early to get the kids fed somewhere outside. When the both of us drove back to the hostel I discovered by accident Frihamnen, the probably worse tram stop in Gothenburg if being with a stroller. We had gone to far by one stop which brought us to the other side of the river. So we went out of the train but there was nothing but little rain, a fence between the tracks, a big street and stairs.We could do nothing but wait for the next tram, drive one more station and get on the opposite direction. We arrived at our hostel at about nine, the child fast asleep and me pretty tired. But all those late events did nothing to the otherwise great first day of FSCONS.

On Sunday my daughter was the only child left. But all the folks at FSCONS provided her with so much fun and warmth that she was very very happy. She entertained us with a live session of GCompris which also drove a lot of attention to the software. There was the funny situation when one person asked me for the name of the software. I said “Gcompris”. He was a bit surprised and asked me if i was french. After we had resolved out our misunderstanding we discovered that he lives almost down the street from my home in Munich and so I invited him to our group’s meetings. World’s so small…

Lake at the playground
Lake at the playground Christian Kalkhoff CC BY-SA
As you might have noticed by this point, i haven’t written about any talks. They might have been interesting, but I wouldn’t know because my four year old wasn’t able to sit down for the necessary time and so we only were in two talks (Keynote and something about stable links) but had to get out early. Anyway, the weekend was great even spent mostly in the Foyer and a nearby playground. We had so much fun and a lot of old and new faces approached us more than once to get the latest news from the two of us.

Some apesA houseOn Monday we we visited Universeum, Scandinavia’s biggest science center. It is part zoo with rain forrest wildlife and playgrounds with experiments for children of all ages (including me).There have been apes that sat just an arm-length away, we build our own house with toy-bricks and made it collapse afterwards. When we discovered an open mic she sang all swedish child songs she knows, which made my heart totally jump in awe. :)

 

 

As all good things must come to an end finally we went back today. We are happy to be reunited with wife, son, mother and brother but are also sad because we left behind a beautiful city, great people and a wonderful weekend. But we will get back there for sure and next time use our combined charm to make the best merchandise that’s possible.

Finally we want to thank wholeheartedly all the people  who made this weekend such a wonderful experience for us. You rock!!

Behind every great package stands a great maintainer

Recently I switched from Kopete to Pidgin to KDE Telepathy which got some very nice features with the last release, most notably OTR support.

So I went to the YUM-Repository and fetched the package for Fedora 21 just to find the OTR settings panel broken (ok the panel was fine, but the buttons did nothing at all). So I went to some IRC channels on Freenode asking the same question over and over again until I landed in #fedora-kde, Fedora’s KDE SIG. I should have done this first, because my bug got fixed almost instantly. As far as I understand some optional build dependency was missing, so OTR didn’t went completly into the binaries. But now this bug is gone I can communicate again in the post Snowden era.

Not only is Free Software respecting my rights as a user, also a great community makes using the software a pleasure.

Thank you!

Report from FSFE Munich local group meeting January 2015

The Munich FSFE fellowship group gathered for the first time in 2015 on 9th January. Although some of the regulars were still on vacation, we were able to get some things done.

As decided during the December meeting we reviewed some tools to support our work. We had Owncloud, Trac, Redmine and the Fellowship Wiki on our shortlist. Owncloud has a lot of features even for groups (yet incomplete, e.g. a group task tracker is still missing) but it imposes a dependency on JavaScript. Also trac is very customizable with plugins but reports show that they often break during updates. Further hosting a python web application is not that common with shared hosters. Redmine has the same issues with plugins and also needs JavaScript to work properly. All solutions so far would have needed custom hosting and administration by us, which we considered unnessary because still our group is not that big. So in the end we agreed on using a protectd pages inside the Fellowship Wiki for now, because it doesn’t need JavaScript to work and, most important, is already there.

Next on our agenda was our Free Software flyers. We discussed having a games edition. One question was if it should target adults rather than children or vice versa. As it turned out we will try to make two editions, one with games for adults only (e.g. 3d-shooters) and one for children. But things are still in flow.

Of course the Munich situation was discussed. But there had no new insights most probably due the christmas holidays. If you got any news, just drop me a message. :)

Last but not least I told the group, that I had registered a talk on Munich for LITA.

So far for our January meeting. Next meeting will occur on February 13th 2015 at 18:30h.

Been at FSCONS 2014

I’ve been in Gothenborg, Sweden from Oct. 30th to Nov. 4th 2014. During my stay I got to know Sweden and Gothenborg to some extend.

I really had a nice time there, wandered the city and harbour a lot, got addicted to Fika (coffee with kanelbulle (cinnamon rolls)), talked to locals using my still minor swedish skills and had time to clear my mind, get inspired and rest. The city, yet undeniable hit by gentrification, seems still quite diverse. The number of children is astonishing high and people seem to be quite relaxed and very nice. One guy even tried to force me under his umbrella when I just enjoyed looking at the heavy rain. :)

But I didn’t go to Sweden just to hang around, my journey had a deeper purpose.  This was FSCONS, the annual Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit. My plan was to run a booth for FSFE, giving out material and selling merchandise.

Unfortunally this didn’t work out, because the postal service managed to delay both independendly sent parcels from Berlin and Dusseldorf until the week AFTER FSCONs. So FSFE’s booth didn’t happen at all.

Our last hope faded when lunch time had passed on Saturday, so I switched into attendee mode and enjoyed the great conference. Yet I’m very sad that all the time and money spent for sending the parcels was wasted and even some event on the next weekend was sabotaged by this. My own time of course was spent perfectly well, so absolutely no need for me to complain.

During the conference I met a lot of new faces as well as Lucile, Stephan and Sam who attended FSCONs as speakers. It was a great atmosphere and I really liked it there.

I won’t go into any further detail about the talks as they hopefully will be available as video soon. I just want to highlight, that the conferences coverage of social aspects was much more intensive than for example FOSDEM. So there was a full track on Commons, digital and physical. The (vegan) food was very tasty and plenty.

To still bring in my own tiny share into the conference schedule, I recycled my GHM talk on Munich into a lightning talk and held it on Sunday evening.

After six days in Schweden I was totally happy to get back to my family, bringing them swedish books, jigsaw puzzles and crispbread.

Because FSCONS unintendedly turned into my personal happening I have decided to not request any financial support from FSFE. I hope I will be able to get there next year again, then with some stuff to sell. And since there is a whole track of child play I might even bring my loved ones.

Report from FSFE Munich local group meeting December 2014

On their regular schedule FSFE’s Munich local group had its last meeting in 2014. After some smaller past meetings, mostly due illness, this time the gathering was big again. Special guest was a guy from the Red Matrix who saw my profile there and joined us to meet similar minded people. I see this as the moment where those “use(r)less” “alternate” social networks start to collide with the physical lifestyle. :)

Our agenda was quite big, but we managed to get through it in time.

First I had the pleasure to inform the group, that some person showed up at the Rhine/Main meetings and told them he learned about the FSFE from us during Corso Leopold. This was great news and all of us were happy to hear that.

Next we talked about the upcoming FSFE-GA-Seat elections. I asked every group member to think about candidating for a seat if they like to, shared some information on the work related to the seat and informed them about the upcoming change in the FSFE Council.

Recently there had been some talks with our host CCC. They might need to have an internal meeting on fridays in the farer future, so we would have to either change time or place of our meetings. We decided to stick with the time in any case and, if needed, would change to another venue.

After all this internal stuff we got to one of our current main tasks, preventing Munich from the change back to Windows. In past meetings we decided to create a website to tell the public the facts and correct the FUD that is spread by the Mayors in the press. After the situation calmed down a bit, the project also slowed down. But since it got too quiet now we decided to get the project up and running soon. The page will be kind of a LiMux-Watch-Blog. Some of our members try to organize a gathering to write the first content in the next week.

Since March and Document Freedom Day is around the corner we started to talk about the modifications for our Free Software handouts. We decided to make every serial with differently coloured paper, so people understand its 6 different flyers instead of 6 stacks of the same. Further a publication date will be added and the introductional text will get a make over. On last Corso Leopold we encountered some hardware failures within our booth material. So as soon as the snow melts (after it finally fells down ;) ), we will build a test booth and do some repair and maintenance work, exchange broken parts, etc. Finally we talked about having an own price for Document Freedom Day. Unfortunally no one had a proper idea at hand, but all of us will think about it.

Last but not least we took up a discussion we had at our November meeting about the quality of our work. We then came to the conclusion, that we have room for improvment regarding long-term planning and availability. On this meeting we started a tool discussion. We want to have some bug/task-tracking tools presented at the Januar meetings. Redmine, Trac and Owncloud have been named, if you have another suggestio please leave a comment.

After the official part had ended, a discussion about Red Matrix, critical mass and distributed social networks started.

Our next meeting will take place on January, 9th 2015 6:30pm at the muCCC. We further will have some christmas get together at the OpenSource-Treffen Christmas party happening on December, 19th 2014.