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01.24.14

Amid NSA Scandals and Revelations Delhi Government and European Governments Are Moving to GNU/Linux and Free Software

Posted in Site News at 8:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A torrent of migrations and policy changes (facilitating imminent migrations) serve software freedom, not just in lip service but also in practice

TIMES are exciting for Free/libre software, especially if you work with the public sector (as my wife and I do). Governments are rapidly moving towards software that can be audited, partly motivated by scandals that revolve around pricing/lock-in, privacy, and digital autonomy (independence from developers abroad).

To give some recent examples of success stories and transformations, the Delhi government is about to switch to Free software following Stallman’s visit [1] and the German state of Schleswig-Holstein is following the footsteps [2] of Munich [3,4], which now uses GNU/Linux, not just Free software. Moving a little southwards, Regione Umbria (Italy) is moving to Free software [5], probably for financial reasons [6] and also a desire to conform to new policies [7-10]. Even here in the UK, which has traditionally been Microsoft-friedly, pro-FOSS policies are being made stronger [11-12] and it shows (hawks in Ireland get slammed for going the opposite way [13]).

Looking more broadly and generally, Red Hat recently wrote about “an open source policy that works in practice” [14] and Red Hat deserves credit for approaching politicians on these matters, making a real difference and inducing change. In European Parliament itself there are already changes under way [15] to address ill dependence on proprietary software that facilitates spying. After European parliamentarians found out that they had been spied on by the NSA, who can blame them? It’s espionage. No government should ever use proprietary software; it’s not just about transparency and savings (accountability to the public) but also national security. How can a nation depend on secret code from another country, or even secret code from a private company therein/within?

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Delhi government to switch to free software

    Delhi: Delhi government is set to opt for free software. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held initial discussions with free software guru Richard Stallman. The meeting was facilitated by Joseph C Mathew, former IT advisor to the Chief Minister of Kerala V S Achuthanandan, before he was shunted out falling foul of the powerful official faction of the CPI {M} in Kerala. The first phase will be introduced in the education sector. Significantly, this new initiative follows close on the heels of Kejriwal’s announcement that monopolies will not be allowed in the retail sector. Stallman said that he shared the philosophy of the Aam Aadmi Party.

  2. More and more open source in Schleswig-Holstein

    The German state of Schleswig-Holstein is gradually increasing its use of free and open source. “The use of this type of software solution has increased over the last years, mostly in the area of web and application servers”, a state spokesperson explains. ” We still rely on closed-source products as they are required for specific governmental applications.”

  3. Summing Up Munich’s Migration To GNU/Linux
  4. LiMux – the IT evolution – An open source success story like never before

    In a process spanning ten years the Munich city administration has migrated from a proprietary, vendor-locked IT structure to a free, open-source and flexible Linux-based solution. Although this could save the municipality millions of Euros, other reasons and benefits make the changeover even more attractive.

  5. Regione Umbria awarded for the migration to LibreOffice

    LibreUmbria, the migration project of Regione Umbria to LibreOffice, has been awarded a prize for innovation – for metholodology and process – as one of top 10 Italian government projects in 2012/2013.

  6. The Italian Diet Crisis
  7. Italy is latest to promote open source software in public procurements

    In December, the Italian government issued final rules implementing a change to procurement law that now requires all public administrations in the country to first consider re-used or free software before committing to proprietary licenses. Importantly, the new rules include an enforcement mechanism, which can, at least in theory, annul decisions that do not follow these procedures.

  8. Italy puts Free Software first in public sector
  9. Italy posts benchmark open vs closed software

    The Agenzia per l’Italia Digitale (AGID) on Wednesday posted the criteria and guidelines on how to compare open source and proprietary software. The document is to help public administrations to give priority to free and open source solutions, and to the re-use of software paid for by public administrations. As part of the preparation, AGID during the past year held several meetings with industry experts, including free software specialists.

  10. Italian govt agencies to consider Free Software before commercial software

    The Italian Digital Agency has recommended that its government’s agencies consider Free Software alternatives before purchasing licenses for commercial software.

    Recommendations like this tend to come from European governments, never from government agencies over here in our America, even though it will save a ton of money.

  11. Freedom In Software And Hardware At The UK Cabinet Office
  12. First steps on the Cabinet Office technology transformation journey

    Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has led the drive to change how technology is used across government, yet he has acknowledged that the IT used by staff in his own department is poor.

  13. Fine Gael calls for open source browser crackdown

    Irish politician Patrick O’Donovan of the Fine Gael party has called for a crackdown on open-source browsers, calling them a gateway to an ‘online black market’ filled with ‘illegal goods such as drugs, weapons and pornography’ – but may, perhaps, be merely confused as to his terminology.

  14. An open source policy that works in practice

    While many customers are aware of open source software and encourage its use, they are also wary of intellectual property contamination—which is alright and understandable. There are customers who do not want to be bothered regarding each and every tool used, while others are extremely concerned and put every open source tool or program through an approval process. The policy can be tuned as per each customer’s preference. For example, a set of commonly used tools may be listed and pre-approved in the Statement of Work or other agreement prior to the start of project.

  15. EP Green/EFA to use open source to secure email

    The Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament “is reaching out to the Free Software community”, in order to achieve trustworthy email encryption, the group announced this weekend. The political block objects to the mass surveillance by companies and governments, as disclosed the past year by Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the US’ National Security Agency. The group is starting a test, laptop computers running a tailored version of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution.

12.25.13

Techrights Plans for 2014

Posted in Site News at 6:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: As 2013 (nearly) comes to an end we look back at this year, reflecting and looking ahead at the coming years

2013 was a relatively slow year for Techrights, mostly for personal reasons and nothing related to the volume of news. In recent months there has been only scarce coverage of patent issues; this was due to lack of time but also a sense of despair. Allowing corporate influence in this area has taken us nowhere but fake ‘reforms’ which make elimination of software patents in the United States too distant a dream. The same thing in copyright policy motivated people like Professor Lessig (of Creative Commons fame) to ‘guerilla’ activism and sometimes suicide (Swartz). Lessig, a friend of Swartz, turns his attention to political corruption and next month he and many others will march in protest against such corruption. Without some political action we cannot expect good technology to be triumphant. It’s sad, but that’s how the world works.

As noted yesterday, 2013 was good for GNU/Linux and the future holds promise. In terms of journalism, however, 2013 was very bad. Putting aside the important leaks about the NSA (which served us well for the second part of the year), surveillance put an end to the excellent site Groklaw while several other excellent sites, including The H, pretty much died for financial reasons. By now it should be realised that unless we as readers support the sites we like they are likely to simply vanish or produce less output (I now work full time elsewhere and my wife does too). A few months ago Tux Machines was put on sale because the personal affairs of its founder threatened to put an end to it; my wife and I put our savings together to acquire and to keep running it. Now that site is very much focused on GNU/Linux and to a lesser degree on Free software in general. Here in Techrights things are getting more political, usually in a way that directly relates to technology. We oughtn’t shy away from politics. Good (as in benign, benevolent and technically better) policy will be imperative for progress. Without it, corruption like bribes (i.e. money) will determine who benefits from government contracts.

For quite a few years it has been possible for me to produce a daily (sometimes bi-daily) summary of links, informing readers of important news and sub-categorising it for easier absorption. I can no longer do this. It’s too much. A lot of readers appreciated it, but it’s no longer sustainable. Instead I occasionally post articles with relevant recent news appended and bits of commentary throughout. In 2014 it will stay the same unless readers have suggestions. Until a couple of years ago I was able to work on Techrights as though it was a full-time job (with salary of zero). Right now, if the goal is to keep the site going and always with both eyes on the ball, then cooperation is needed, e.g. contribution of articles, help in IRC (dropping links there can help), and even financial help. Of course one could turn rogue and serve privacy-infringing (remotely-hosted) ads — even full-page ads like Phoronix does — but that would defeat our goals and rightly make us look like hypocrites.

Techrights — like today’s Tux Machines (I’ve removed the ads from there) — is viewed as a public service. It’s not a business and not a job. It was never perceived that way. To help Techrights or Tux Machines is not to help some kind of business; it’s to help a cause, an idea, a process.

In 2014 we are going to release quite a few new videos that I recorded with Dr. Richard Stallman. These would already have been released if I had more time to edit. For those who wonder about TechBytes (audio), editing takes a long time (especially with music segments, as the rest is raw and unedited) and there are other issues because Tim, my co-host, may soon be moving to the United States. The show began in 2010 and in its current form it’s mostly centred around Richard Stallman, a person whom we agree with on many subjects.

As always, those who can financially support the site (to motivate more output) will be eternally remembered because currently there have been no more than half a dozen people who chose to do so. The sacrifice of time is ideologically driven, not business-driven. Techrights will never be anything resembling a business, just a site that gives readers what they want.

12.12.13

LinuxDevices is Coming Back as Subdomain of LinuxGizmos

Posted in Site News at 11:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LinuxDevices

Summary: QuinStreet agrees to license a decade of news stories from LinuxDevices for republication and long-term preservation

BACK in the summer we campaigned to bring LinuxDevices back to the Web (after QuinStreet had bought it and took it offline).

Well, Techrights activism in conjunction from other pressure (from site authors) over this issue has finally paid off. The founder of that site told us yesterday that he would bring back the site after all these efforts to influence QuinStreet. He got his Christmas gift a little early. He was writing for a company (for profit) and he will soon be hosting his own work that he worked hard on to produce for many years, informing a lot of people in the GNU/Linux world (especially embedded/device developers).

In essence, we have managed to rescue ~10,000 high-quality articles from ‘Internet bitrot’. It’s massive!

In the near future LinuxDevices content will be republished under LinuxGizmos.com. “It will live on a subdomain of LinuxGizmos,” the founder of the site told us. This is still work in progress (a developer is currently working on data conversions). When all the articles get indexed (which they will) all the information and other useful data will be easily reachable again. This is a victory to those who advocate for preservation, as some of us are (other Techrights members silently played a role in this).

The lesson to learn from this whole saga is that authors should insist on ownership (or copy rights) of their work. Without it, valuable work can go down the digital dustbin when a corporation has no interest in it, or it may take years and lots of immense effort to retrieve anything from this dustbin.

12.05.13

Custom-built Distributions and the 2,000+ GNU/Linux Distributions Listed by Softpedia

Posted in Site News at 8:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Archlinux

Summary: Customisation for different users, localisations, system ages etc. motivate plurality and diversity, which now yields thousands of packaged (for installation) GNU/Linux images

JUST A COUPLE of months after this previous release Arch Linux has a new final release [1,2], which even former Microsoft employees are exploring [3]. This release uses Linux 3.12 and it is targeting advanced GNU/Linux users.

The nice thing about Arch is that it’s very much custom-built by the users. It can be suitable for almost anything, including old computers which are now targeted by many different distributions [4] (Softpedia now counts as many as 2,000 distros [5]).

There are many options out there other than the well-known distros, such as Fedora, Ubuntu, and Debian. For instance, in the past few weeks/days alone we found some reviews of SolydXK SolydK 2013.11 [6], SparkyLinux 3.1 [7], AntiX 13.2 [8] Emmabuntüs 2 [9], Elementary OS [10], and Salix Ratpoison 14.0.1 [11]. These are all viable options which are typically derived from better-known distros but make some further improvemens/customisations (for those who don’t know how to build their own systems with Debian, Arch, or Gentoo). It is important to support lesser-known distros, which are the equivalnt of many automotive makers with different customisations on different models.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Arch Linux 2013.12.01 Is Now Available for Download

    Another month, another ISO image of the amazing Arch Linux operating system is now available for download, released today, December 1, 2013, on the official website.

  2. Arch Linux Is Now Powered by Linux Kernel 3.12

    This was a lot faster than expected, but the Arch Linux developers have just pushed a few minutes ago, November 14, 2013, the final and stable packages of the recently released Linux kernel 3.12.

  3. Arch Linux on a HiDPI Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro
  4. Distros For Old Computers

    Defining hardware as “older” is tricky. Newer resource hungry software levering on the pace of hardware developments is rendering even relatively newer hardware obsolete. Examples of these relatively recent “older” hardware would be single-core or dual-core AMD Athlons and Intel Pentiums.

  5. Softpedia Now Lists More than 2,000 Linux Distributions

    Yes! We are proud to announce that we have just crossed the mark of 2,000 Linux distributions, right here on our Softpedia Linux section, as you can see from the counter situated on the top right of the page.

  6. SolydXK SolydK 2013.11 review

    SolydK is the KDE edition of a line of distributions published by SolydXK, an outfit made up of an odd 4-man team. For home users they publish two distributions – SoldK and SolydX. The latter uses the Xfce desktop environment. Both distributions began as community or unofficial Linux Mint Debian projects, before the founder decided to go solo.

  7. Everyday Linux User review of SparkyLinux 3.1 Razor-Qt Edition

    The SparkyLinux website describes SparkyLinux as a lightweight, fast and simple distribution designed for old and new computers.

  8. AntiX 13.2 – More Modern But Still Some Quirks

    Blimey, it’s been a long time since I reviewed antiX already and it’s about time to give it a second look. The overall judgement may have been a bit harsh last time around and I’m going to see whether we can write a more positive piece this time. Some of the issues raised seems were valid though as the distribution has changed a bit since then. Enough of that, let’s hop right in.

  9. The Joint Contest of Emmabuntus and Linux notes from DarkDuck

    You probably know that Emmabuntüs community prepares the next release of their operating system: Emmabuntüs 2. This is the reason why I am happy to announce today a joint contest from Linux notes from DarkDuck and Emmabuntüs community.

  10. The origin and evolution of Elementary OS
  11. Salix Ratpoison – An Esoteric Distro For The Alpha Geeks

    If you don’t care much about fancy desktop bling, and think the keyboard is still the best means of interacting with the computer, then you’ll find yourself at home with Salix Ratpoison 14.0.1.

    If you haven’t heard of it before, think of Salix OS as Slackware with the convenience of a package manager.

    The developers of Salix OS think of the distro a bonsai: small, light and a product of infinite care. They prune the list of apps that make up a release to make sure they aren’t packing in multiple apps for the same job.

12.03.13

GNU is Not Linux: Richard Stallman Explains the Origins of GNU

Posted in Site News at 10:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Another series of interviews coming…

Richard Stallman on chair

Summary: Stallman tells Techrights/TechBytes lesser-known details about the birth of GNU in the early 1980s

Freedom is appreciated by more and more people who now understand how freedom gets covertly derailed, either by corporations, by authorities, or both. The NSA leaks have helped people reassess their views.

A lot of the digital oppression that we now suffer from was vaguely foreseen decades ago. Back doors and other malicious features were only a few years or decades away back then; trust in computers was maintained owing to secrec; behind the scenes computers and networks turned from instruments of enablement to instruments of control (restriction, surveillance, and more). The trend we are seeing was predictable to pessimists. As times goes by the words of warning from Richard Stallman find support from a wider audience of former optimists.

Stallman’s life as a freedom activist mostly began 30 years ago. Our readers regularly ask for him to come back and share his views. Iophk pointed out that GNU’s anniversary was an opportunity to speak about the past. “Any kind of interview, either via e-mail or via SIP,” he said, “would be great.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen any retrospective yet covering where progress has actually been made. There are a lot of things that have become so common that we almost take them for granted or forget their origins.”

The interview with Stallman tries to focus on GNU as a movement and as a software project. It does cover some topics outside the area of software, but any topic other than software is not the main topic this time around. Some questions came from readers, giving an opportunity to receive a video response. Others were written in advance in order to address contemporary issues. The overview is as follows:

Part 1: the Origins of GNU

- – Can you recall the text/code editor (amongst other tools) used to initially create GNU and over time render proprietary software non-obligatory for development work?

- – What was the first GNU program?

- – How did the number of active participants vary over the years back in the 1980s?

Part 2: the Achievements of GNU

- – What is it among the goals of GNU which has not been fulfilled yet (if any)?

- – If the GNU operating system was widely preinstalled on restrictive hardware and preloaded with binary blobs, would that, in your view, be better than lesser ubiquity for GNU?

- – What will it take to break the desktop monopoly and tackle the OEM bundling trap?

Part 3: the Future of GNU

- – Do you believe that GNU receives as much credit as it deserves?

- – To what extent does attribution to GNU (which usually accompanies understanding of its principles) contribute to its sustainability as a long-term project?

- – Are you optimistic or pessimistic with respect to the future of computing as increasingly free/libre?

The interview took a short time compared to the 2.5 hours I spent with Stallman, mostly speaking off the record. Questions were also taken from readers and then answered. Someone asked me to ask “Richard what he thinks about Google? is it evil? is it lesser evil, just like in RMS’s example of lending a copy of software to your friend, even though this copy should not be copied?”

Questions were also asked about darknets and such. One person sought Stallman’s opinion on “i2p, freenet and the meshnets that are rising like Hyperborea with the altDNS deal.”

One reader wanted to “ask him to join Diaspora!”

For all those questions and much beyond them be sure to keep an eye on Techrights.

Among the topics covered we also had trolls, or those who focus on reputation damage to the Free Software Foundation, the GPL, and people who are associated with these. The interview will get split into segments and then edited as before, probably to be released over the span of the next 3 months (I work full time, so I must pace this editing process accordingly).

11.28.13

More Questions for Richard Stallman

Posted in Site News at 9:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Readers are invited to ask questions which Richard Stallman can answer tomorrow (on camera)

LAST Friday I very briefly attended Drupal Camp 2013 (the event was in Manchester) and tomorrow (Friday) I will travel to meet Richard Stallman in Lincoln. I plan to do some filming. If you have questions to Stallman or just subjects which you would like him to address, please get in touch by tomorrow morning. I am trying to get an extensive record of his views on many issues, not necessarily just software. I typically ask questions which people around the Web relay to me, so assume that your polite questions will be asked and answered.

11.19.13

GNU/Linux News Sites in 2014

Posted in Site News at 1:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Paper

Summary: The scarcity of independent coverage of Free/Open Source software (FOSS) and GNU/Linux and what it all means

2013 was an exceptionally bad year for news sites which focus on FOSS. The H ceased publication, Groklaw did too (this time for good), Tux Machines relinquished control due to lack of time (my wife and I keep it going now), and some blogs that focused on Linux and GNU no longer do. In addition, audiocasts which used to regularly cover FOSS no longer do (or rarely do).

“Real journalism tries to appeal to readers, not advertisers and sponsors.”For one who pursues news items and good reporting in this area, the sources became meager and some are repetitive/unoriginal. In order to keep the message out there and in order to prevent FOSS from being abducted by large corporations that sell proprietary software we really need to consider our options. If there is no light shed on the success stories of FOSS and actions of enemies of FOSS (those who seek to destroy it) we will definitely lose momentum. Sure, Linux and FOSS are everywhere, but without the community’s scrutiny companies like IBM and Google silently close down some parts (e.g. in Android) or turn them hostile (TPM, UEFI restricted boot, DRM and so on).

Free-as-in-freedom software is 30 years old, but the second half of its life (about 15 years) characterised corporate transformation under the “open source” wing or brand. Right now, even a hugely corrupt proprietary software giant like Microsoft affiliates itself with this movement. This is wrong.

Real journalism tries to appeal to readers, not advertisers and sponsors. The latter should be an afterthought and hardly a consideration at all. “Linux Voice” will be fresh breath of air because no more will its talented writers be pressured (implicitly) to write corporate sponsors-friendly articles (I have seen it from the inside); the sponsors are people who read the work and this is how it should be done. This is how independent news channels like “Democracy Now” work. It is the only way to guarantee that software patents get bashed (large corporations like IBM love them) and companies like Novell get treated very harshly for colluding with Microsoft to extort FOSS using patent lawsuit threats. The community’s voice has been an essential regulator and proactive enforcer of ethics.

“Those who honestly believe that profit-driven stewardship on its own will take us in a better direction should learn the history of Hippies and their movement.”In 2014 we won’t have many independent sites left. Those that remain deserve to get support from their readers. Ruling out a sellout, their only other option is to shut down, potentially paying for hosting to keep old stories accessible free of charge (some old newspapers turn to paywalls). Once we lose our collective voice as a community, it will all be left for corporate vultures to devour (companies like Cisco and Microsoft, which go out of their way to help the NSA).

There is an important point worth reiterating (we already made it earlier this month). Don’t count on the Linux Foundation to represent the community. It is all about corporations, which make up almost all of its budget. Recently, Juniper joined the circles of the Linux Foundation. Juniper is a company heavily occupied by many Microsoft executives who moved there. Former Microsoft staff inside those circles is now in management, too, not just membership.

Those who honestly believe that profit-driven stewardship on its own will take us in a better direction should learn the history of Hippies and their movement. The direction taken when corporations alone dominate a movement is surely good… for corporations. It gives them more power at people’s expense. They extinguish grassroots and leave activists a little sandbox to play in, mostly as a marketing exercise. In recent years it has felt like this is where the Open Source folks are taking us, unlike the FSF.

11.18.13

Privacy-Oriented GNU/Linux Advocacy a Priority

Posted in GNU/Linux, Site News at 7:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Why privacy is becoming a matter of priority in this Web site

TechRadar has a new article [1] about best GNU/Linux desktops, but it also started a wider discussion [2] about which distro is best for protecting the users’ privacy [3]. The author’s selections are IprediaOS, Liberté, Privatix, Tails, and Whonix. Most desktop users are still stuck with Windows, which is developed by the NSA and its partner Microsoft (both are involved in development), so there is a huge audience to whom we can advocate privacy-respecting operating systems. Techrightsin-progress redesign is emphasising privacy, not corruption from the likes of Novell or Microsoft. Software patents are also taking lower priority for the time being as it’s expected that more people will discover software freedom owing to privacy scandals, not outrageous patent policy or competitive abuses (which unlike privacy don’t affect them directly).

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Best Linux desktop: which is ideal for you

    Linux is about choice, or so the popular mantra goes, and nothing represents this more than the plethora of desktop environments on offer. Most distros have at least five graphical environments in their repositories, and some offer double-digit numbers of choice. But why? What’s the point of all this? Surely it’s not a question of having a lot of desktop environments, but of having a single one that works properly. Well, maybe.

  2. Best Linux distro for privacy protection?

    Privacy is in the news right now, with many people concerned about the NSA spying scandal, identity theft and hacker intrusion into their computers. TechRadar has an overview of the best Linux distros for protecting your privacy.

  3. Which Linux distro is best for protecting your privacy?

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