Tonnerre Lombard

Archive for November, 2007

OOXML: an obstacle to accessibility?

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The Adaptive Technology Resource Center (ATRS) released a list of issues which have been raised in their analysis of the OOXML specification with regard to accessibility.

According to the paper, the standard itself contains a number of questionable regulations which might pose a threat to the ability of the programmer to make the implementing software accessible to disabled people. The main point of criticism is that some proprietary formats have been used in areas where free W3C standards are already in existence and covering the same functionality. However, while the W3C standards have been developed with accessibility in mind, the notion of accessibility is apparently missing entirely from the OOXML standard.

As an example, some of the specifications for insertion of images do not allow for image formats which permit access to disabled users. The ATRS then goes on to demand the revision of these issues. A long list of references to objections regarding accessibility and related issues is referenced at the end of the paper.

Bale (Canton) switches to Linux, PostgreSQL

Friday, November 30th, 2007

The department of Military, Police and Justice (JPMD) of Bale (Canton, BL) in Switzerland is after the canton Turgovie (TG) the second cantonal administration to switch to Free Software solutions.

The Central Service for Informatics (ZID) of Bale (Canton), which is responsible for the migration, wants to switch to SuSE Linux Enterprise Server version 10 and PostgreSQL version 8.2. The JPMD is thereby considered as a test platform for the rest of the cantonal administration, which is going to follow the example if considered appropriate.

Both cantons are using the software Fabasoft eGov Suite 7.0, a public services request tracking system not heavily unlike RT but including contact data and document management, which is usable for both Windows and Linux. The software also offers a standardized interface for exchange of data with other public service providers.

For more detailed information, please read the Linuxkommunale article on how Bale (Canton) switches to Free Software

Gnome goes Mono and jumps into the Patent Trap

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

A couple of years back, the Gnome desktop environment developers have taken the decision to reengineer the Gnome desktop around the Mono framework. This decision has mainly been influenced by the main Mono developer Miguel de Icaza, who is a very vocal employee of Novell. Recent developments thus request us to recall the pieces of the puzzle in order to understand what might really be going on.

Reasonable doubt has been rased to whether or not Mono can actually be deployed freely. Mono itself is basically a free and halfway portable implementation of the .NET framework developed by Microsoft. However, the .NET framework itself is subject to a large amount of software patents, which cover the concepts used within the .NET framework. Since these are concepts and not individual implementations (which are covered by Copyright, which is certainly untouched by a reimplementation), they most likely also apply to the Mono framework.

To Novell itself, Icazas employer, this is not a significant problem, since Novell has closed a patent deal with Microsoft not so long ago which undoubtedly also covers the .NET patents. However, all conventional Linux and Open Source vendors would not be able to distribute Gnome as it would be covered by the .NET patents Microsoft owns.

This amounts to an easy way for Novell to effectively lock in Gnome users to their own products. Gnome would no longer be a real Free Software project, even though the code remains freely available. It is expected that this type of patent issues will be raised many times, causing severe damage to the economy with the time. The only way of mitigation will be a transatlantic patent agreement which clarifies Art. 52 EPC: Software is not patentable.

US Aid offering cheap monopolist products to the third world

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

The U.S. Agency for International Development (US Aid) is offering cheap access to hardware and training curriculae for Microsoft operating systems.

The project in question is a US$236’000.- project to unbind the «Unlimited Potential» of the industries of Sri Lanka which could be enhanced with information technology. It will be executed by Info Share, an NGO which develops IT solutions for NGOs, and Unlimited Potential, a Microsoft welfare organization, whose main purpose is to spread Microsoft in the developing world.

German Police says Good Bye to Microsoft Products

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

After the German Bundesrechnungshof has released a paper critizising the extensive and expensive use of Windows in public services, the German Police Trade Union has demanded that the failed police software project POLIKS shall be discontinued and all installations of the Windows operating system of Microsoft be replaced with Linux.

Issues with the new system had been raised for a long time already. It takes half an hour and longer to record a single case, which had been done within a couple of minutes using the paper based approach. This half hour is of course time that the person reporting the incident will have to wait. Also, the system has experienced 50 hours of downtime for the year, which is a rather low availability rate as opposed to services normally offered by Open Source systems.

The Police Union representatives suggest that the saved license fees could be used for the christmas gratifications for the police officers.

John Tehranian: No life without IPR infringement

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

John Tehranian has released a paper stating that life without IPR infringements is not possible. Tehranian is describing the average day of an imaginary, but average person, all with respect to intellectual property rights infringements. The liabilities for such an average day would already amount to several million Dollars.

Google invites to “OSS Jam” lightning talks in Zurich

Friday, November 16th, 2007

The web service platform provider Google invited to an Open Source Software lecture event called Open Source Jam in Zurich. On that event, participants are invited to present their projects in 5 minutes, trying to find other programmers who are willing to participate in it.

The event is also supposed to feature a “hack center” where participants can code together and socialize. And as the main feature, pizza and beer are provided. The date is not fixed yet though, and participants are invited to subscribe to a common organization mailing list.

The nomenclature debate

It is also to be noted that the event has been announced as an Open Source Event, which has already caused Free Software propagators to abstain from participation in an event. It is clear that the event is unluckily announced already, and it is going to be interesting how it is going to be accepted in the Free Software camp.

Data Retention in Germany adopted

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

It has been a couple of days already, but on November 9th, around noon (finally not in a midnight session!), the German Parliament has adopted the law on data retention (VDS: Vorratsdatenspeicherung) with a lower limit of 6 monthes of retention. This legislation requires all connection metadata to be saved for 6 monthes before they may get deleted.

During the vote, which was held around noon, the parliament was an astonishingly empty place. This legislation, which can serve to turn Germany into a surveillance state, did not even raise enough interest among the parliamentarians to cause a significant majority of them to vote on the issue, which is a rather sad thing.

According to the German federal police, there is «no alternative» to the data retention policy. The same argument could be applied to death row, so it is utterly worthless as an argument.

I invite everyone who has talked to his local parliamentarian in Germany to have a word with him about why he did not appear in Parliament or why he voted in favor of the proposal (if so): have a look at the voting list for the German data retention law.

Not all is lost

But there is still a way to influence the legislation even after it has been passed. The Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung has a press release on their preparation of legal action against the law. According to the Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung, the legislation is in disagreement with the German constitution and thus cannot be adopted as it has been presented right now.

And the Arbeitskreis Datenspeicherung is not alone with this opinion: Parliamentarians of the Socialist Party (SPD) mentioned that they also don’t think the law is compatible with the constitution, but expressed that the Constitutional Court would take care of it.

Invitation to the 2nd Swiss FOSS compatible lobbyists meeting in Berne

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

I would like to invite all people who have an interest in political activism for the benefits of Open Source and Free Software as well as aiming at a free and open information infrastructure (open standards, etc.) to the second Swiss FOSS compatible lobbyist meeting in Berne, in the conference room in the railway station. The meeting will take place on

Monday, November 5th, 2007 18:00 (that is 6pm)

in the conference rooms inside the railway station of Bern, Switzerland.

The place is easily reached by taking the train to Berne and leaving at the central station. If you are planning to go there by car, there is a parking lot (surveilled) right above the railway station (Universität Langgasse).

If you have comments or don’t know how to find this place, call me under TL1733-RIPE or +41.793790549.


  1. Salutation
  2. Review of the situation since the first meeting
  3. Analysis of failed projects
  4. Introduction of working groups and creating member lists (see next headline)
  5. Working group agenda discussion
  6. Outlook on likely items for the year 2008
  7. Maybe drop by at the Altes Tramdepot or something similar to have a drink

Proposed woking groups

The following is a list of working groups which are deemed helpful for the organization of the upcoming campaigns:

Currently debated items

  • Office OpenXML standardization
  • Copyright Revision (cleanup work)
  • Federal Surveillance (trojan etc.)

Generic Working Groups

  • Open Standards
  • Amendments
  • Lobbying
  • Intelligence
  • Press
  • IT (Yes, there are lots of things to do in this area too)