Category Archives: Proud to use free software

AGPL enforced: The Israeli ICT authority releases code

Data.gov.il was created in 2011 after the Israeli social justice protests as part of the the public participation initiative and started to offer data held by the government. Back then the website was based on Drupal. In 2016 it was changed to CKAN, a designated system for releasing data. This system is licensed under the AGPLv3 requiring source code availability for anyone who can access the the system over a network, de facto for every user.

Since the change to CKAN, open source people asked the state to release the code according to the license but didn’t get a clear answer. All this time when it’s clear it’s violation.  This led Gai Zomer to file a formal complaint in March 2017 with the Israeli State Comptroller. Absurdly, that same month the ICT authority mentioned a policy to release source code it owns, while failing to release code it has taken from others and adapted.

With the end of the summer break and Jew holidays, and after I wasn’t able to get the source, I decided to switch to legal channels, and with the help of Jonathan Klinger and my company, Kaplan Open Source Consulting, we notified they should provide the source code or we’ll address the court.

Well, it worked. In 3 days time the CKAN extensions where available on the website, but in a problematic way, so users weren’t able to download easily. This is why we decided not to publish this code release and let them fix it first. In addition we made it clear all the source code should be available, not only the extensions. Further more, if they already release it’s recommended to use git format instead of just “dumping” a tarball. So we told them if they aren’t going to make a git repository we’ll do that ourselves, but in any case, would prefer them to do that .

While this issue is still pending, the ICT authority had a conference called “the citizen 360” about e-gov and open government in which they reaffirmed their open source plans.

A slide about open source from the Israeli ICT authority presentation

A slide about open source from the Israeli ICT authority presentation

Now, a month later, after our second letter to them, the about page in data.gov.il was updated with links to the ICT authority GitHub account which has the sources for the website and the extensions. A big improvement, and an important mark point as the commit to the repository was done by an official (gov.il) email address.

Beyond congratulating the Israeli ICT authority for their steps forward and the satisfaction of our insisting on them became fruitful, we would like to see the repository get updated on a regular basis, the code being given back to the various CKAN extensions (e.g. Hebrew translation). In general, we hope they would to get inspired by how the how data.gov.uk is doing technical transparency. If we allow ourselves to dream, we would like to see Israel becoming a dominate member in the CKAN community and among the other governments who use it.

We’re happy to be the catalyst for open source in the Israeli government, and we promise to keep insisted where needed. We know that due to other requests and notifications more organizations are on their way to release code.

(This post is a translation from Hebrew of a post in Kaplan Open Source Consulting at https://kaplanopensource.co.il/2017/11/20/data-gov-il-code-release/)

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Filed under Debian GNU/Linux, Fedora, Government Policy, Israeli Community, LibreOffice, PHP, Proud to use free software

Happy birthday Linux

Well, it seem that 20 year really flies by when you’re having fun (:

I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones.  This has been brewing since april, and is starting to get ready.

Linus Torvalds, 25 August 1991 on comp.os.minix (original message)

20th Anniversary of Linux T-shirt by Kim Blanche

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Welcome The Document Foundation and LibreOffice

For those who haven’t heard: OpenOffice.org Community announces The Document Foundation

The community of volunteers developing and promoting OpenOffice.org sets up an independent Foundation to drive the further growth of the project

The Internet, September 28, 2010 – The community of volunteers who develop and promote OpenOffice.org, the leading free office software, announce a major change in the projectâs structure. After ten yearsâ successful growth with Sun Microsystems as founding and principle sponsor, the project launches an independent foundation called “The Document Foundation”, to fulfil the promise of independence written in the original charter.

The Foundation will be the cornerstone of a new ecosystem where individuals and organisations can contribute to and benefit from the availability of a truly free office suite. It will generate increased competition and choice for the benefit of customers and drive innovation in the office suite market. From now on, the OpenOffice.org community will be known as “The Document Foundation”.

Oracle, who acquired OpenOffice.org assets as a result of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, has been invited to become a member of the new Foundation, and donate the brand the community has grown during the past ten years. Pending this decision, the brand “LibreOffice” has been chosen for the software going forward.

The Document Foundation is the result of a collective effort by leading independent members of the OpenOffice.org community, including several project leads and key members of the Community Council. It will be led initially by a Steering Committee of developers and national language projects managers. The Foundation aims to lower the barrier of adoption for both users and developers, to make LibreOffice the most accessible office suite ever.

The Foundation will coordinate and oversee the development of LibreOffice, which is available in beta version at the placeholder site: http://www.libreoffice.org. Developers are invited to join the project and contribute to the code in the new friendly and open environment, to shape the future of office productivity suites alongside contributors who translate, test, document, support, and promote the software.

Speaking for the group of volunteers, Sophie Gautier – a veteran of the community and the former maintainer of the French speaking language project – has declared: “We believe that the Foundation is a key step for the evolution of the free office suite, as it liberates the development of the code and the evolution of the project from the constraints represented by the commercial interests of a single company. Free software advocates around the world have the extraordinary opportunity of joining the group of founding members today, to write a completely new chapter in the history of FLOSS”.

[…]

So welcome The Document Foundation and LibreOffice. I already can see how does the community benefits from this due to the merge with go-oo:

Q: What does this announcement mean to other derivatives of OpenOffice.org?
A: We want The Document Foundation to be open to code contributions from as many people as possible. We are delighted to announce that the enhancements produced by the Go-OOo team will be merged into LibreOffice, effective immediately. We hope that others will follow suit.

(from http://www.documentfoundation.org/faq/)

So, will Oracle contribute the OpenOffice.org trademark to the community ? Time will tell…

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Encouraging open source in education

I’ve read today a case study by Gregor Bierhals about an Austrian project called desktop4education which creates a desktop environment for school based on open suse.

The fact that really surprised me (and for the better) was the fact that the federal government help the project by sending CDs/DVDs to other school and even willing to award schools to move to open source software and reducing license fees.

While schools don’t pay the the Microsoft Office license fee (10 euro per station), the federal government has decided to pay the schools 10 euro for each station that moved to open source software.

However, by the time of writing the situation is about to change as the Federal government increasingly adopts a policy that promotes the use of open source software in Austrian schools. Exemplary to this is the government’s decision to pay any school €10 for each workstation that runs the free productivity suite Open Office that is provided by Sun Microsystems in replace of Microsoft Office, for which the government introduced a calculative license fee of €10.

I think this decision is radical as it motives the schools to move to open source software, and benefiting financially from the move. So while the government might pay a bit more, the money goes to the schools instead of commercial companies. I’m sure that’s a better investment of tax payers money.

I can just hope more governments will adopt this policy.

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A new version for InfraRecorder

InfraRecorder, a free software for burning CDs/DVDs in Windows has a new version (0.50). This version comes after a long pause in releases for almost a year.

I’ve been installing InfraRecorder on every Windows computer I can as part of trying to use free software programs even on a proprietary operation system. See my “Can everything except windows can be free software?” for more free and open source software for Windows.

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Mozilla Israel stand @ August Penguin 2009

As part of August Penguin 2009, Mozilla Israel members Tomer Cohen and Tsahi Asher had a stand for promoting Firefox, web standards and other free software from Mozilla.

Mozilla Israel stand @ August Penguin 2009

Mozilla Israel stand @ August Penguin 2009

The stand was crowded during most of the conference with people coming to talk or ask questions. The visitors enjoyed getting Firefox stickers/pins and web standards bracelets thanks to a shipment of the giveaways from abroad.

The party hats were used to make the August Penguin key signing party to look like a party (:

August Penguin Key Signing Party

August Penguin 2009 Key Party

I’ll be happy to see more support for the local Israeli chapter of other projects, so we could have more stands like that in the next August Penguin.

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Checking OLPC usability with children

Last semester I took a usability course in my university, as a final project I decided to test the OLPC usability for/with children. The full report is available (in Hebrew), but I’ll summarise the main points.

The checks’ goal was to see how do small children interact with the OLPC, and how does the language barrier affects them. In Israel the children starts to learn reading and writing in Hebrew at the age of 6, and most also start their English (very common as the second language) at the age of 8. So the language also creates another challenge for the child and he must relay on his other skills, as he can’t understand the interface language.

My target audience were children between 4 and 10, while the official target audience for the OLPC is between 6 and 12. I used 5 children:

  • a boy, age 4.5
  • a girl, age 9.5
  • a girl, age 4
  • a girl, age 7.5
  • a boy, age 7

The test environment was a OLPC laptop running Sugar with an English interface. After some of the tests I found out the mouse pad wasn’t functioning all the time, but it was interesting to see how that effected the children.

The tests:

  • Can a child find how to open the computer?
  • Can the child find how to use the computer? Mainly understand the main screen icons and open programs.
  • Can a child find how to exit a program back to the main screen? Don’t forget he can’t look for the butten says “exit/quit”.
  • Record the child’s first impression for the laptop and his thoughts after using the computer.
  • Check whether the child got some educational benefit from the use of the laptop.

Summery of the results:

Only once child (the oldest) succeeded with understanding how to open the laptop without help. The other needed a hint or directions. The small children found in difficult (physically) to open the laptop. Seems that there should be some marks near the antennas that indicate they should be opened first. And maybe making the antennas to open with less force (but still insuring the locking mechanism works in the laptop falls to the ground).

All the children recognized the general meaning of the icons in the main screen as programs or “stuff the computer does”. Not all the icons are clear to the children (and also to me). The language (English) was the main method the big children found out the meaning of the game, while the small one could only guess or just start the program. Clear icons were paint, maze, memory (although one thought it’s tik-tak-toe). Unclear icons were: the snake (python/pippy), the dolphin (distance), tamtam’s multiple icons and the browse icon.

The exit button was a challenge to all children, the old ones used trail and error while reading the buttons labels, but the other needed direction about how can them exit the program. The icon just isn’t clear enough.

The mouse usage seemed to also be an issue, partly by been half broken and partly because the young children don’t handle it so smoothly and can’t always be very accurate. While in most actions that wasn’t a problem, in the task of exiting a program that was a big issue. As the exit button is near the frame edges, missing it makes the frame menu to appear and move or hide the exit button. For some children that was a very annoying experience.

All the children said the computer is heavy for them, but the degree changed with the age. The 4 years old children said it is heavier than the 9 years old children. Don’t forget the from the first grade (age 6) the children start taking a bag to school and carry  books. So any improvement in the weight is good, but I don’t think it’s critical.

Finally, I found out that all the children got some educational benefit from the use of the OLPC. The small one got some math practice with the memory game, or by trying to solve their way out of the maze (I actually saw how they improve while playing). The bigger children got a good practice with spelling words with speak, and one even surprised me and his mother with his spelling.

In the end, the OLPC is indeed revolutionary machine and interface (thought Sugar), but some small changes should be made. The overall experience of the children was very good.

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