Planet Fellowship (en)

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Your chance to contribute to KDE in non-C++ – or the first KDE-CI IRC meeting

Mario Fux | 20:29, Saturday, 22 November 2014

This blog post is about another possibility to contribute to KDE. It’s about taking work off Ben’s shoulders and about fixing the bus factor for our great CI (Continuous Integration) system.

I’d like to start a series of weekly or bi-weekly (to be decided) IRC meetings to coordinate the work to understand, change and enhance our CI system and therefore we need a first date. So if you’re interested please add yourself to this Doodle (think about different timezones!).

Prospective agenda for the IRC meeting:

  • Ben: Short introduction to KDE CI
  • Everybody: Short introduction incl. their skills and wishes for KDE CI
  • Ben: What needs to be changed
  • Everybody: Work on a roadmap and distribute work till next meeting
  • Everybody: Determine date for the next IRC meeting

This is your chance to help KDE to enhance the code quality and spread to even more platforms and thus bring our great software to even more computers and people. But if you prefer to support us in another way their is our ongoing fundraiser. Thanks for considering to help us!

And one last thing about the KDE CI system: we’ve a page about CI on the Frameworks wiki too.

Short Personal note: My diploma thesis was finally accepted (and thus again thanks to everybody who wished me all the best for my thesis!) and thus I’ve a bit more time (to coordinate some stuff in KDE ;-) . But I still need to learn and pass the exams (and there is some other big private change in my life soon to come ;-) .

flattr this!


bb's blog | 10:31, Saturday, 22 November 2014

Please participate in a survey about KDE’s download manager KGet. Read more…

Friday, 21 November 2014

PostBooks 4.7 packages available, xTupleCon 2014 award - fsfe | 14:12, Friday, 21 November 2014

I recently updated the PostBooks packages in Debian and Ubuntu to version 4.7. This is the version that was released in Ubuntu 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn) and is part of the upcoming Debian 8 (jessie) release.

Better prospects for Fedora and RHEL/CentOS/EPEL packages

As well as getting the packages ready, I've been in contact with xTuple helping them generalize their build system to make packaging easier. This has eliminated the need to patch the makefiles during the build. As well as making it easier to support the Debian/Ubuntu packages, this should make it far easier for somebody to create a spec file for RPM packaging too.

Debian wins a prize

While visiting xTupleCon 2014 in Norfolk, I was delighted to receive the Community Member of the Year award which I happily accepted not just for my own efforts but for the Debian Project as a whole.

Steve Hackbarth, Director of Product Development at xTuple, myself and the impressive Community Member of the Year trophy

This is a great example of the productive relationships that exist between Debian, upstream developers and the wider free software community and it is great to be part of a team that can synthesize the work from so many other developers into ready-to-run solutions on a 100% free software platform.

Receiving this award really made me think about all the effort that has gone into making it possible to apt-get install postbooks and all the people who have collectively done far more work than myself to make this possible:

Here is a screenshot of the xTuple web / JSCommunicator integration, it was one of the highlights of xTupleCon:

and gives a preview of the wide range of commercial opportunities that WebRTC is creating for software vendors to displace traditional telecommunications providers.

xTupleCon also gave me a great opportunity to see new features (like the xTuple / Drupal web shop integration) and hear about the success of consultants and their clients deploying xTuple/PostBooks in various scenarios. The product is extremely strong in meeting the needs of manufacturing and distribution and has gained a lot of traction in these industries in the US. Many of these features are equally applicable in other markets with a strong manufacturing industry such as Germany or the UK. However, it is also flexible enough to simply disable many of the specialized features and use it as a general purpose accounting solution for consulting and services businesses. This makes it a good option for many IT freelancers and support providers looking for a way to keep their business accounts in a genuinely open source solution with a strong SQL backend and a native Linux desktop interface.

Saturday, 22 November 2014


bb's blog | 10:31, Saturday, 22 November 2014

We present the results from the survey about toolbar usage in Libreoffice Calc. Read more…

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Is Amnesty giving spy victims a false sense of security? - fsfe | 12:48, Thursday, 20 November 2014

Amnesty International is getting a lot of attention with the launch of a new tool to detect government and corporate spying on your computer.

I thought I would try it myself. I went to a computer running Microsoft Windows, an operating system that does not publish its source code for public scrutiny. I used the Chrome browser, users often express concern about Chrome sending data back to the vendor about the web sites the users look for.

Without even installing the app, I would expect the Amnesty web site to recognise that I was accessing the site from a combination of proprietary software. Instead, I found a different type of warning.

Beware of Amnesty?

Instead, the only warning I received was from Amnesty's own cookies:

Even before I install the app to find out if the government is monitoring me, Amnesty is keen to monitor my behaviour themselves.

While cookies are used widely, their presence on a site like Amnesty's only further desensitizes Internet users to the downside risks of tracking technologies. By using cookies, Amnesty is effectivley saying a little bit of tracking is justified for the greater good. Doesn't that sound eerily like the justification we often hear from governments too?

Is Amnesty part of the solution or part of the problem?

Amnesty is a well known and widely respected name when human rights are mentioned.

However, their advice that you can install an app onto a Windows computer or iPhone to detect spyware is like telling people that putting a seatbelt on a motorbike will eliminate the risk of death. It would be much more credible for Amnesty to tell people to start by avoiding cloud services altogether, browse the web with Tor and only use operating systems and software that come with fully published source code under a free license. Only when 100% of the software on your device is genuinely free and open source can independent experts exercise the freedom to study the code and detect and remove backdoors, spyware and security bugs.

It reminds me of the advice Kim Kardashian gave after the Fappening, telling people they can continue trusting companies like Facebook and Apple with their private data just as long as they check the privacy settings (reality check: privacy settings in cloud services are about as effective as a band-aid on a broken leg).

Write to Amnesty

Amnesty became famous for their letter writing campaigns.

Maybe now is the time for people to write to Amnesty themselves, thank them for their efforts and encourage them to take more comprehensive action.

Feel free to cut and paste some of the following potential ideas into an email to Amnesty:

I understand you may not be able to respond to every email personally but I would like to ask you to make a statement about these matters on your public web site or blog.

I understand it is Amnesty's core objective to end grave abuses of human rights. Electronic surveillence, due to its scale and pervasiveness, has become a grave abuse in itself and in a disturbing number of jurisdictions it is an enabler for other types of grave violations of human rights.

I'm concerned that your new app Detekt gives people a false sense of security and that your campaign needs to be more comprehensive to truly help people and humanity in the long term.

If Amnesty is serious about solving the problems of electronic surveillance by government, corporations and other bad actors, please consider some of the following:

  • Instead of displaying a cookie warning on, display a warning to users who access the site from a computer running closed-source software and give them a link to download an open source web browser like Firefox.
  • Redirect all visitors to your web site to use the HTTPS encrypted version of the site.
  • Using spyware-free open source software such as the GNU/Linux operating system (using one of the Debian, Fedora or Ubuntu systems is one of the more common ways to achieve this) and LibreOffice for all Amnesty's own operations, making a public statement about your use of free open source software and mentioning this in the closing paragraph of all press releases relating to surveillance topics.
  • Encouraging Amnesty donors, members and supporters to choose similar software especially when engaging in any political activities.
  • Make a public statement that Amnesty will not use cloud services such as SalesForce or Facebook to store, manage or interact with data relating to members, donors or other supporters.
  • Encouraging the public to move away from centralized cloud services such as those provided by their smartphone or social networks and use de-centralized or federated services such as XMPP chat.

Given the immense threat posed by electronic surveillance, I'd also like to call on Amnesty to allocate at least 10% of annual revenue towards software projects releasing free and open source software that offers the public an alternative to the centralized cloud.

While publicity for electronic privacy is great, I hope Amnesty can go a step further and help people use trustworthy software from the ground up.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Free Software for the European Parliament: FSFE comments at DG ITEC forum

Karsten on Free Software | 15:50, Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Today, the European Parliament organised a conference to inform MEPs about the IT services available to them. It featured a panel discussion led by Adina Valean, the new EP Vice President in charge of ICT, with a contribution from Giancarlo Villela, the director of the EP’s IT department.

After the panel discussion, I got the chance to contribute a few brief remarks. Here they are.

FSFE is a charity that works to put users in control of technology. Free Software means being able to use, study, share, and improve your software.

The EP has taken some important steps towards Free Software and interoperability: It has committed to being able to receive and send documents in the Open Document Format (ODF). The Parliament has also released some Free Software of its own.

These are very good beginnings. But there remains further work to do:

  • We need to enable interaction with citizens: You can’t force citizens to buy certain products in order to interact with you. Please make sure that the EP is fully accessible for citizens and public bodies that use Free Software. It’s currently very difficult for Free Software users to watch live streams from the Parliament.
  • As the EP continues to digitise, rely on Open Standards and Free Software. Make sure that Parliament doesn’t get locked into certain vendors and service providers. Today’s star gadget is tomorrow’s landfill. Today’s best-in-class app will be an old hat tomorrow. Stay independent as you digitise. Free Software and Open Standards let you do this.
  • Here in the Parliament, the DebianParl project has built a fully free and open desktop for MEPs and staffers. It works great; but to become fully usable, DG ITEC needs to offer access to mail servers via the standard IMAP protocol. That’s a simple step to take, and it should be taken as soon as possible.

You can count on the European Parliament Free Software User Group (EPFSUG) to help you in this effort, and I’m glad to offer FSFE’s support as well.

Let’s be clear. The European Parliament is the EU’s greatest democratic institution. European citizens are right to expect the Parliament to live up to this standard. Let’s all work together to help the Parliament on this path.

WhatsApp Adopts Secure End-to-End Encryption. But will it federate?

Torsten's Thoughtcrimes» Free Software | 11:13, Wednesday, 19 November 2014

WhatsApp has announced that it is currently switching all its users to secure end-to-end encryption. It is now using a state-of-the-art protocol that was developed for the Free Software app TextSecure. This cryptographic protocol fulfills most desired security properties and is simple to use at the same time. The encryption happens without the users even noticing it.

Thanks to Edward Snowden, the world’s population now knows about the reality of ubiquitous surveillance and is asking for private communications. It is a good sign that companies who previously have assisted surveillance are now helping to fight it.

WhatsApp has understood that the value of real private communication outweighs the value to be gained from reading people’s messages. Let’s hope that others will understand this as well.

Trust and Federation

This bold move will improve WhatsApp’s image significantly, provided that it doesn’t fail again badly in security as it already has many times in the past. The list of these failures is long and it remains to be seen if the encryption was implemented in a way that can’t be broken. Also, we have to trust that there are no backdoors built in.

Independent reviews of WhatsApp’s code are still not possible, because – contrary to TextSecure – the WhatsApp itself remains proprietary and closed. Also, only one part of TextSecure’s clever protocol was implemented: the encryption. The other interesting part was left out: federation.

Federation essentially means opening a service to competitors by allowing them to connect their products to it. This way you can choose the app you like most and still chat with all your friends instead of being forced to use only WhatsApp. This works just like email. The protocol of email is an Open Standard and allows for many independent email providers. You can choose the one you trust or can even be your own provider if you like.

But will it federate?

Opening up its service for federation unfortunately does not have the same positive benefit for WhatsApp’s image as encrypting its messages. It would even endanger the monopolistic ambitions it has, trying to become the world’s messenger.

I would rather see the world’s messaging service in the hands of society than in control of one single company. As much as I like to see WhatsApp open up, it will not happen. Opening up is just not in its interest and the public is not even asking for it.

The only way I see federation for WhatsApp happening is with an even bigger monopoly and a powerful cartel authority that forces WhatsApp to open up its service to competitors.

Until this happens and I can use a Free Software app to chat with WhatsApp users, I will continue to look for what to use instead of WhatsApp.

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Saturday, 22 November 2014


bb's blog | 10:31, Saturday, 22 November 2014

We present results from the recent icon test using Sifr icons and compare it to the findings for Tango and Oxygen inspected in 2013. Read on…

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Installing Ubuntu without proprietary software

the_unconventional's blog » English | 18:00, Sunday, 16 November 2014

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how I’m fed up with Debian’s attitude on upgrading to working Intel X drivers. I’ve given up all hope for jessie to ever be usable, so I decided to migrate to Ubuntu … Continue reading

Friday, 14 November 2014

Endocode is hiring an Assistant to the Board

Creative Destruction & Me » FLOSS | 17:15, Friday, 14 November 2014

If you are a recent or about to graduate in a Bachelor’s or Fachhochschule degree in business studies, Endocode might be looking for you! We are hiring an assistant to the board. Admittedly, the job is quite a challenge. It gives a sneak peek into all aspects and functions of managing a company. It does not require much experience, but it requires good training and a passion for learning and problem solving. The responsibilities include supporting management processes like board meetings and negotiations, and also some administrative work for relaxation.


One interesting detail about the job is that it is ideal for gaining management and leadership skills before beginning a Master’s degree. I was told not many companies are offering interesting jobs for Bachelor graduates – well, we do! If you are interested, the details are on Endocode’s job page. Feel free to pass it on to your student and graduate friends. The deadline for applications is December 7.

Filed under: Coding, CreativeDestruction, English, FLOSS, KDE, OSS, Qt

Some common-sense recommendations on cloudy computing

Karsten on Free Software | 12:48, Friday, 14 November 2014

Today, Brussels-based lobby organisation ECIS released a report on
“cloud” computing and interoperability. It highlights the importance
of open standards, open data formats, and open interfaces in a world
where more and more of our computing happens on machines owned and
operated by other people.

The report is aimed at public and private organisations that want to
rent computing resources rather than buying the necessary hardware
themselves. It covers three different scenarios – Software as a
Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a
Service (IaaS).

Pizza as a service

The main report highlights questions that buyers –
including public sector procurement people – should ask before
signing on the dotted line.

The policy recommendations that come with the report common sense, and
boil down to caveat emptor. For example, the report asks policymakers to
“[e]stablish sets of criteria that help customers analyse and evaluate
migration and exit concerns before adopting and deploying cloud
computing solutions.” This basic bit of due diligence – assessing the
future cost of getting out of the system you’re buying – is something
that FSFE has long asked public bodies to undertake.

While the recommendations are hardly revolutionary stuff, Europe’s
public sector would be much better off if it took this advice to
heart. In reality, the most common scenario is likely to be an
underinformed public sector buyer facing a highly motivated vendor
salesperson. In order to avoid falling into future lock-in traps, it
will be essential to properly train procurement staff.

The report does have a couple of shortcomings. The authors are not
named, so the content perhaps deserves additional scrutiny. More
importantly, the report makes no mention of the data protection issues
that come with moving your data, and that of your customers, through
different jurisdictions. In the accompanying press release, ECIS gloss
over this issue with a tautology:

“[T]he value of the cloud lies in its global nature, and
fragmenting the cloud will inhibit the cloud.”

I asked about this issue at the event where the report was presented,
prompting the speaker, IBM’s Mark Terranova, to take prolonged
evasive action. There currently is no good answer to this
question. Buyers and users of these services should acknowledge that
as a problem.

At the heart of all this is the question of control. When you’re a
company that signs up for a service, who has control over your data,
your software, and your processes?

Even more lock-in?

While these services offer ease and flexibility, they also come with
the potential for even greater lock-in than the traditional model.
Being able to take your data to another service provider isn’t
enough. You also need to be able to carry along the associated
metadata that actually makes your data useful – if you just receive
your data in one big pile, a lot of the value is gone. If you’ve built
applications on top of your vendor’s service offering, you’ll want to
be able to move those to a new platform, too. Ian Walden pointed out
that these aspects don’t usually receive enough attention in contract

Pearse O’Donohue, who just moved from being Neelie Kroes’ deputy head
of Cabinet to a post as Head of Unit in DG CNECT, said that in the
EC’s own procurement, transparency and vendor-neutrality would be very
important in the future. He noted that with new EC, responsibility for
the EC’s procurement has moved from DG ADMIN to DG CNECT, under
Commissioner Oettinger and Vice-President Ansip. O’Donohue
highlighted that the new Commission is committed to “practicising
what it preaches” in public procurement.

Now that would certainly be welcome.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Configure your gaming mouse on Linux

Creative Destruction & Me » FLOSS | 09:00, Thursday, 13 November 2014

Or: Configure XInput properties for USB devices on Linux dynamically
Using gamer mice with Linux occasionally turns out to be problematic, because their high resolution combined with the default X server settings makes the mouse pointer incredibly fast to a point where it is unusable. I am using a Razer Taipan mouse at 4000 DPI, a good speed for gaming, but not for work.

USB devices on Linux are of course configured dynamically. Their X windows properties like mouse pointer acceleration are managed through the XInput tool. The basic desktop settings tools allow configuring the mouse pointer speed, but not much more. This is insufficient when using multiple devices (in this case, the built-in laptop trackpoint and an external mouse) that require different settings. Also, there is no way to disable mouse pointer acceleration, the most useless default setting ever invented :-) One solution which is described below is to script configuring the settings using XInput and Python. There is an open question at the end in case anybody is able to help.

The basic task is to examine the input devices known to the X server (for example by using xinput --list on the command line), determine the device ids from the listing, and then applying specific properties to known devices. While xinput supports device names as selectors when setting properties, this approach turned out not to work reliably, probably because the devices are listed more than ones and names occur multiple times because of that. What did work was setting the device properties using the device ids. So the script first determines the device id for a device name, and then applies properties to it:

#!env /usr/bin/python
import sh, re

def configure_device(device_name, properties):
    for line in sh.xinput("list"):
        match = re.match('.*{0}.*id=(\w+).*'.format(device_name), line)
        if match:
            device_id =
            for property in properties:
                sh.xinput("set-prop", device_id, property, properties[property])
            print("{0} (device id {1}) configured.".format(device_name, device_id))
    print("Device named {0} not found!".format(device_name))

This works reliably as long as the device names are detected in xinput --list. If a device cannot be found, the script continues. This is not an error, it happens for example in case a USB mouse is not connected.


There are other ways to configure mouse pointer settings, as for example described in the ArchLinux Wiki. These approaches failed in the described case because they assume that the device id is known or does not change, or have to be configured by the super user.

The next step is to determine the specific properties to set. This requires some experimentation to match personal preferences. The trick to get rid of mouse pointer acceleration is to set Device Accel Velocity Scaling to 1. The mouse pointer speed can be influenced with Device Accel Constant Deceleration. The following snippet configures separate speeds for the trackpoint and the Razer mouse, and disables acceleration:

configure_device('IBM TrackPoint',
                 { 'Device Accel Velocity Scaling': 1,
                   'Device Accel Constant Deceleration': 1 } )
configure_device('Razer Taipan',
                 { 'Device Accel Velocity Scaling': 1,
                   'Device Accel Constant Deceleration': 0.5 } )

The rest is up to some trial-and-error fiddling to find the right settings. The script uses the Python sh module. A common way to make that available is to install it using pip. Assuming sudo accepts pip invocations without asking for a password, wrapping the configuration script in this shell batch takes care of it:

sudo pip -q install sh && \
    python $HOME/bin/

The remaining question is how to automatically invoke the configuration script whenever a X input device is connected. If anybody knows how to get this done, please leave a comment.

Filed under: Coding, CreativeDestruction, English, FLOSS, OSS Tagged: FLOSS

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Debian is pushing me away with their broken X drivers

the_unconventional's blog » English | 15:00, Wednesday, 12 November 2014

For months now, I’ve been dealing with unstable machines all around the place; primarily because of Intel GPU driver bugs. Even though I’m using a rolling release (Debian testing), the situation is not improving at all. Hardly an hour goes … Continue reading

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tip: install Hebrew fonts on Fedora Linux

Sam Tuke » Free Software | 14:03, Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Here’s a one line command that will install additional Hebrew fonts on Fedora 20. There’s a fair few in here, including a Free version of Hebrew Arial (much sought after). They’re all in repositories already so with yum it’s a breeze: sudo yum install culmus-* alef-fonts* google-noto-sans-hebrew-fonts

A guide to modern WordPress deployment (part 2)

Seravo | 07:31, Tuesday, 11 November 2014


Recently we published part one in this series on our brand new WordPress deployment platform in which we covered some of the server side technologies that constitute our next-gen WordPress platform.

In part 2 we’ll be briefly covering the toolkit we put together to easily manage the Linux containers that hold individual installations of WordPress.

4. WP-CLI, WordPress on the Command Line

We use the WordPress command line interface to automate everything you would usually have to do in the wp-admin interface. Using WP-CLI removes the inconvenience of logging into a client’s site and clicking around in the WP-admin to perform basic actions like changing option values or adding users.

We’ve been using WP-CLI as part of our install-, backup- and update processes for quite some time now. Quick, simple administration actions, especially when done in bulk is where the command line interface for WordPress really reveals its powers.

Check out the famous 5-minute install compressed into 3 easy lines with the WP-CLI:

wp core download
wp core config --dbname=wordpress --dbuser=dbuser --dbpass=dbpasswd
wp core install --url= --title="An Orange Website" --admin=anttiviljami --admin_password=supersecret

5. Git, Modern Version Control for Everything

We love Git and use it for pretty much everything we do! For WordPress, we rely on Git for deployment and development in virtually all our own projects (including this one!).

Our system is built for developers who use Git for deployment. We provide a Bedrock-like environment for an easy WordPress deployment experience and even offer the ability to easily set up identical environments for development and staging.

The main difference between Bedrock and our layout is the naming scheme. We found that it’s better to provide a familiar directory structure for the majority of our clients who may not be familiar with Bedrock, so we didn’t go with the /app and /wp directory naming scheme and instead went with /wp-content and /wordpress to provide a non-confusing separation between the WP core and the application.

Bedrock directory structure:

└── web
    ├── app
    │   ├── mu-plugins
    │   ├── plugins
    │   └── themes
    ├── wp-config.php
    ├── index.php
    └── wp

Seravo WordPress layout:

└── htdocs
    ├── wp-content
    │   ├── mu-plugins
    │   ├── plugins
    │   └── themes
    ├── wp-config.php
    ├── index.php
    └── wordpress

Our users can easily jump straight into development regardless of whether they want to use modern deployment techniques with dependency management and Git version control, or the straight up old-fashioned way of copying and editing files (which still seems to be the predominant way to do things with WordPress).

6. Composer, Easy Package Management for PHP

As mentioned earlier, our platform is built for Git and the modern WordPress development stack. This includes the use of dependency management with Composer – the package manager for PHP applications.

We treat the WordPress core, language packs, plugins, themes and their dependencies just like any other component in a modern web application. By utilising Composer as the package manager for WordPress, keeping your dependencies up to date and installed becomes just a matter of having the composer.json file included in your repositories. This way you don’t have to include any code from third party plugins or themes in your own repositories.

With Composer, you also have the ability to choose whether to always use the most recent version of a given plugin or a theme, or stay with a version that’s known to work with your site. This can be extremely useful with large WordPress installations that depend on lots of different plugins and dependencies that may sometimes have compatibility issues between versions.

7. Extra: PageSpeed for Nginx

Now, Pagespeed really doesn’t have much to do with managing WordPress or Linux containers. Rather it’s a cutting edge post-processor and cache developed and used by Google that’s free and open source! Since we hadn’t yet officially deployed it on our platform when we published our last article, we’re going to include it here as an extra.

The PageSpeed module for Nginx takes care of a large set of essential website optimisations automat(g)ically. It implements optimisations to entire webpages according to best practices by looking at your application’s output and analysing it. Really useful things like asset minification, concatenation and optimisation are handled by the PageSpeed module, so our users get the best possible experience using our websites.

Here are just some of the things PageSpeed will automatically handle for you:

  • Javascript and CSS minification
  • Image optimisation
  • Combining Javascript and CSS
  • Inlining small CSS
  • Lazy loading images
  • Flattening CSS @imports
  • Deferring Javascript
  • Moving stylesheets to the head
  • Trimming URLs

We’re really excited about introducing the power of PageSpeed to our client sites and will be posting more about the benefits of using the Nginx PageSpeed module with WordPress in the near future. The results so far have been simply amazing.

More information

More information for Finnish-speaking readers available at

Please feel free to ask us about our WordPress platform via email at or in the comment section below.


/var/log/fsfe/flx » planet-en | 01:03, Tuesday, 11 November 2014

T-DOSE 2014 was held two weeks ago. A lot of Dutch fellows were there, and of course we brought the FSFE booth.


On Saturday, I gave a talk about the “Internet of Things” and Kevin Keijzer about Discrimination of free software (users) in education; Maurice spoke on Sunday about “Digital Sovereignty For Europe” (youtube).

I also volunteered at the Privacy Café (see also this earlier post).

- Felix

Saturday, 22 November 2014


bb's blog | 10:31, Saturday, 22 November 2014

We present a way to measure the quality of icons using a large scale online test. With this data in hand, we seek inspiration on effects on the quality of icon sets. Read the whole article…

Sunday, 09 November 2014

FSCONS 2014 and patterns that plague communities

Sam Tuke » Free Software | 22:37, Sunday, 09 November 2014

A week has passed since this year’s Free Society Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, where last weekend I travelled to speak about "The case for Free Software Crowdfunding". Several talks have stayed with me, and crept into my thoughts over the last seven days. And one in particular will stay with me for a long time […]

Saturday, 08 November 2014

My T-DOSE talk: The “Internet of Things”: Opportunities and Dangers

/var/log/fsfe/flx » planet-en | 23:40, Saturday, 08 November 2014

I recently gave a talk at T-DOSE, where I also helped out at the FSFE booth and the Privacy Café.

The slides are on github and you can watch the talk on youtube.

The abstract:

The “Internet of Things” is around the corner. What does this mean for us as software developers? And what are the dangers and opportunities when it comes to Freedom, Privacy and Security?

We live in interesting times. The time that a “computer” was a room full of electronics, or even a beige box on a desk is behind us. Computers are everywhere. And there will soon be even more of them, in even more places.

The IoT provides us with wonderful opportunities to remotely monitor, manage and automate. And we as a software development community are the ones building it.

But security is too often an afterthought (if that). Now that the IoT is around the corner, security is not just something that impacts those beige boxes on our desks — or the smartphones we carry around — but also the medical devices that monitor our health and keep us alive, the automobiles we drive, the electronics that monitor our homes, and the public infrastructure we depend on. It now impacts public safety, human life, privacy, freedom and democracy.

Who is responsible for making sure the systems and devices that make up the IoT are under the control of their users? Whether we like it or not, the responsibility for ensuring freedom, privacy, security, and (digital) civil rights rest on our shoulders. So instead of asking ourselves (as we usually do) “can we do this?”, we should ask ourselves “should we do this?

We need development practices that take security into account. We need to build systems that are secure from the ground up. And we need Free Software to make sure that the answer to “who controls our computers?” — including the IoT — is “the users”.

But we also need relevant authorities to ensure policies and laws mandate privacy and security and ensure open standards. And we need public awareness of the impact of the IoT on — and the importance of — privacy and security.

The IoT is on its way. It’s up to us to build it right. And to have lots of fun along the way.

- Felix

Saturday, 22 November 2014


bb's blog | 10:31, Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Libreoffice design team discussed the results of the last survey about some functions in the toolbar. In this posting we share our conclusions. Read on…

Friday, 07 November 2014

Why EOMA68 will advance both free software and free hardware

Nico Rikken » fsfe | 09:32, Friday, 07 November 2014

If you’re not familiar with EOMA68, it’s an open electronic interface standard specifically designed to support the development of small computing devices built-up of free hardware and free software. It is mostly known for it’s involvement in the third attempt for creating the KDE-tablet, known as the Spark tablet and the Vivaldi tablet. In this project it was found that it is impossible to rely on the continuity of hardware specifications by Asian electronic vendors. If your goal is to develop a software stack, targeting changing hardware will consume most of the development resources, rendering the project useless. So it became clear that control of the hardware is very important in the fast-paced world of embedded and mobile computing. The EOMA68 standard is an important stepping stone in this regard, because it defines a strict interface between the processing board which includes the main component drivers and the board it is inserted into to provide all the necessary interfaces for the final use-case. This means that the processing boards can be produced at sufficient volumes to enable the desired control over the internal components and thus the free software support. The devices interfacing with the processing boards might be subject to electronic changes, but due to the EOMA68 abstraction, the impact on the software stack will at the very least exclude the basic working of the operating system.

So in this way EOMA68 enables the development of free software for this kind of hardware, but it also increases the ability to design free hardware. If a more free option for chips becomes available, the only step involved for freeing the end-user devices is to develop and build new processing boards. This is far easier of a task than incorporating all the interfaces (like screen drivers) and also the production count can be higher since it is more widely applicable. Also in the process of development the new processing board, it could be tested on the existing EOMA68 platforms without having to develop specific setups. For instance new processing boards can be beta-tested by swapping new cards around between people having EOMA68 compatible devices. Likewise new EOMA68 platforms can be developed and tested by comparing the performance between different processing platforms. So say a driver is functional on a general 64-bit architecture, the driver on the other architecture can be tested to produce the same results, all without creating specific setups for each hardware component.

Then in addition the standard brings the advantage of upgradeable hardware and even shared hardware to the table. The PCMCIA-based boards can be handled by consumers without risking ESD-issues and the interface allows repeated plugging and unplugging without deprecating the contacts. So if your laptop gets slower you just buy a new board for it. And by switching your boards around like a domino-game you can consequently upgrade your netbook, tablet, router or even your smartphone as well. You can leave the now spare processing board on the shelf as a back-up or buy an additional platform to fill another need. This type of upgrading reduces cost and e-waste. Another option would be to have true continuity by carrying a processing board and changing its interfaces depending on the need. You could even change to device with another screen type if you would like to work out in the sun or you could use the built-in connectors of the processing board to watch your holiday pictures at a friend’s place.

So how can you get on board with this? Well, there is a crowdfunding campaign about to launch in order to bootstrap this new paradigm. And just as this system enables, a new and more free processing board is already in development.

Free Software in Education News – October

Being Fellow #952 of FSFE » English | 00:07, Friday, 07 November 2014

Here’s what we collected in October. If you come accross anything that might be worth mentioning in this series, please drop me a note, dump it in this pad or drop it on the edu-eu mailinglist!

FSFE Edu-Team activities

  • We gained a new member from the Netherlands
  • I attended an OER barcamp in Cologne
  • Erik brought up the idea to create a map of FS municipalities which sparked my hopes to get something similar for edu institutions some day. (I opened a ticket for this to keep it in mind.
  • among other inquiries, we had one person asking for “scientific proof” (or anything going in that direction) that teaching with FS will not result in any disadvantages for the pupils when looking for jobs later. The answer we were able to provide wasn’t very satisfying to me. If you are aware of any studies that cover this subject, please contact us!


Edu software

Other news

This paper (in German) suggests not just to teach how to code, rather to replace the subject “programming” with “digital exploration”. That subject shall deal with social, political and economical aspects of digitial developments.

Future Events

Thanks to all contributors!

flattr this!

Tuesday, 04 November 2014

Encrypting cron’s daily mail

emergency exit | 20:51, Tuesday, 04 November 2014

Most you have probably set your system aliases to receive root’s e-mail, and that of course is a very good idea so you are kept up to date. On the other hand you do send a lot of information about your system through the wire, often package diagnostics with information about locally installed vulnerable software and many other things that might help a person or entity gain access to your computer. Now living in a world, where we know that all unencrypted mail is automatically parsed and possibly filtered and stored that is something you might want to avoid. The natural answer is to encrypt the mail which is what I am going to explain in the following.

This HowTo pertains to FreeBSD in particular, but I am sure all you GNUsers out there will figure out the necessary changes for their system. A note of warning: I will not be redirecting all of root’s mail, I will just be sending out the log files. If you want a more complete solution, you might want to check out this. For my situation it definitely was overkill, as it involves installing and configuring a new MTA, new user accounts, some other unmaintained software…

First of all, get GnuPG from your ports or packages (security/gnupg)

pkg install security/gnupg

and add the public key of the receiver to your keyring:

gpg --import your_pkey.asc

I am doing this as root, but you can also setup an extra user for it or even use your regular account. As long as they are in the wheel group, the permissions should be fine. Double-check that the key was added correctly by printing the list of keys!

Next, tell your periodic script not to mail the log files to root, but instead save them to disk. Do so by appending the following lines to (or creating) /etc/periodic.conf :


Now paste the following text into /root/bin/ :


# verify argc
[ $# -ne 1 ] && exit 1

# verify argv
[ $1 != "daily" ] &&  [ $1 != "weekly" ] && [ $1 != "monthly" ] \
 && exit 1

SENDER=""                # could be == $RECEIVER
RECEIVER="your@email.address"               # duh.
SUBJECT="${1} run on $(hostname -s)"        # could be something else

cat "$LOG" | /usr/local/bin/gpg -e -a -r "$RECEIVER_KEY_ADDR" \
 --trust-model always --batch | mail -s "$SUBJECT" "$RECEIVER" \
-f "$SENDER"

and don’t forget to make the file executable.

Verify that the script works by placing some random text in /var/log/daily.log (iff it doesn’t exist) and running

/root/bin/ daily

You should receive an encrypted mail now that your MUA will decrypt for you. If this works, the last step is adding the script to your /etc/crontab. I always have them run half an hour after the original script to make sure that it completed (although 5min might be enough):

# Perform daily/weekly/monthly maintenance.
1      3      *      *      *     root   periodic daily
30     3      *      *      *     root   /root/bin/ daily
15     4      *      *      6     root   periodic weekly
45     4      *      *      6     root   /root/bin/ weekly
30     5      1      *      *     root   periodic monthly
1      6      1      *      *     root   /root/bin/ monthly

(only the lines with gpgcron were added!)

Your next daily mail should come to you encrypted. Happy hacking!

edit: give the full path to GPG if your crontab overwrites $PATH

Monday, 03 November 2014

Circumventing Google on mobile

Nico Rikken » fsfe | 21:38, Monday, 03 November 2014

Nowadays there are many ways to circumvent Google’s services for mobile, which is especially important to Android users who would like to take the next step in freeing their Android. There are other email providers, other PIM syncing services and other application distributors. However I would assume that sometimes a couple of non-free applications might be holding users back from freeing their Android, for instance because no free alternative is available or because their friends are tied in a non-free environment. Luckily the Linux Action Show made me aware of GooglePlayDownloader a project which enables the user to download .apk files from the Google Play Store whilst circumventing the logging and syncing required by Google. This is of course a cat and mouse game, with the associated projects reverse-engineering the API’s and store navigation to keep track of this moving target. With most software creators targeting just the Google Play Store for Android applications, this is a valuable addition to the set of tools that aid in freeing mobile users.

Saturday, 22 November 2014


bb's blog | 10:31, Saturday, 22 November 2014

Virtual Desktops are an important part not only of the KDE experience. We seek your feedback on the question how Virtual Desktops actually affect your life. Read on…

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dutch public broadcaster moves away from open standards

André on Free Software » English | 17:48, Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Dutch public broadcaster NOS has made the redesign of her site public today. The beta site does not offer viewing of past news broadcasts in open standards any longer.

Until now, people were allowed to view past broadcasts in HTML5. This feature has gone away. On you can give feedback and this is what I have done.

UPDATE 29.10.2014

Thanks to Karsten I’ve re-checked and can confirm that HTML5 does work. So it is my mistake. My full apologies to the NOS and to my readers.

This is what happened:

1. Today, in Firefox/Iceweasel it works fine. Note that LibreJS should not be enabled. Because Firefox/Iceweasel seems to default to Flash (see YouTube) I’ve checked with Chromium.

2. In Chromium, with Privacy Badger installed, selecting to not enable the “”-cookie will prevent the broadcast from loading.

UPDATE 31.10.2014

NOS has apparently changed settings. You’re now not obliged to accept external (commercial) cookies before viewing in Chromium.

Saturday, 22 November 2014


bb's blog | 10:31, Saturday, 22 November 2014

The LibreOffice design team announces the start of a new online icon test. You are invited to participate! Read the full article.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Positive results from Outreach Program for Women - fsfe | 23:53, Friday, 24 October 2014

In 2013, Debian participated in both rounds of the GNOME Outreach Program for Women (OPW). The first round was run in conjunction with GSoC and the second round was a standalone program.

The publicity around these programs and the strength of the Google and Debian brands attracted a range of female candidates, many of whom were shortlisted by mentors after passing their coding tests and satisfying us that they had the capability to complete a project successfully. As there are only a limited number of places for GSoC and limited funding for OPW, only a subset of these capable candidates were actually selected. The second round of OPW, for example, was only able to select two women.

Google to the rescue

Many of the women applying for the second round of OPW in 2013 were also students eligible for GSoC 2014. Debian was lucky to have over twenty places funded for GSoC 2014 and those women who had started preparing project plans for OPW and getting to know the Debian community were in a strong position to be considered for GSoC.

Chandrika Parimoo, who applied to Debian for the first round of OPW in 2013, was selected by the Ganglia project for one of five GSoC slots. Chandrika made contributions to PyNag and the ganglia-nagios-bridge.

Juliana Louback, who applied to Debian during the second round of OPW in 2013, was selected for one of Debian's GSoC 2014 slots working on the Debian WebRTC portal. The portal is built using JSCommunicator, a generic HTML5 softphone designed to be integrated in other web sites, portal frameworks and CMS systems.

Juliana has been particularly enthusiastic with her work and after completing the core requirements of her project, I suggested she explore just what is involved in embedding JSCommunicator into another open source application. By co-incidence, the xTuple development team had decided to dedicate the month of August to open source engagement, running a program called haxTuple. Juliana had originally applied to OPW with an interest in financial software and so this appeared to be a great opportunity for her to broaden her experience and engagement with the open source community.

Despite having no prior experience with ERP/CRM software, Juliana set about developing a plugin/extension for the new xTuple web frontend. She has published the extension in Github and written a detailed blog about her experience with the xTuple extension API.

Participation in DebConf14

Juliana attended DebConf14 in Portland and gave a presentation of her work on the Debian RTC portal. Many more people were able to try the portal for the first time thanks to her participation in DebConf. The video of the GSoC students at DebConf14 is available here.

Continuing with open source beyond GSoC

Although GSoC finished in August, xTuple invited Juliana and I to attend their annual xTupleCon in Norfolk, Virginia. Google went the extra mile and helped Juliana to get there and she gave a live demonstration of the xTuple extension she had created. This effort has simultaneously raised the profile of Debian, open source and open standards (SIP and WebRTC) in front of a wider audience of professional developers and business users.

Juliana describes her work at xTupleCon, Norfolk, 15 October 2014

It started with OPW

The key point to emphasize is that Juliana's work in GSoC was actually made possible by Debian's decision to participate in and promote Outreach Program for Women in 2013.

I've previously attended DebConf myself to help more developers become familiar with free and open RTC technology. I wasn't able to get there this year but thanks to the way GSoC and OPW are expanding our community, Juliana was there to help out.

My internship at FSFE

Max's weblog » English | 10:39, Friday, 24 October 2014

I recently saw that the Free Software Foundation Europe is offering a new and very interesting internship position. That’s a great opportunity for every student interested in Free Software and political activism — and for me to write about my internship I completed from October 2013 until end of March 2014. Here’s a report I wrote some time ago:

Starting from October 2013 I was able to work 6 months as an intern for the Free Software Foundation Europe in Berlin. This was an internship required by my bachelor degree course at the University of Konstanz (Germany) where I study Politics and Public Administration. Some years before my internship I already was an FSFE Fellow and then decided to apply there.

My daily tasks contained monitoring and moderation of the various mailing lists and social network accounts. There were also various technical jobs to do: Updating and creating single websites, sending out newsletters, fixing smaller bugs on our pages and so on.

The bigger part in my internship was political work. In Germany, various ISPs want to hinder end consumers to freely choose a router because they only want officially supported ones. Such policy comes with serious consequences for security, free competition, trust in technology, and compatibility. My tasks contained analysing regulation drafts, writing statements for public hearings and coordination with other activists. We summarized the issue and our work on

After the parliamentary elections in Germany 2013 I analysed the Grand Coalition’s agreement to identify possible positive and negative effects on Free Software. I also was able to visit several politicians in the German Bundestag to talk with them about Free Software and upcoming important tasks we wanted to work on.

Besides I helped a lot organising our various campaigns like “Document Freedom Day” and “I love Free Software”. For many of these political tasks and campaigns I wrote press releases and public statements.

During my internship I learned a lot about the structure and work in a multinational organisation and how to collaborate and talk with different people around the world. Another plus is the know-how I aquired by helping planning the various campaigns and analyses. When I was in Brussels and Chemnitz to help at FSFE’s booths during conferences I also learned very much about how to talk with people of all kinds and how to carry ideas and convictions to others.

I will never regret applying for and completing the internship at FSFE. There were so many theoretical and practical things no study course can teach. Being able to work at the interface between communities, companies and politics is something every interested student should be granted.

I want to thank everybody who enabled the FSFE to offer these internships. Organisations like the Free Software Foundation Europe are important to bring equality and freedom to our society and these internships allow students to get an insight into this very interesting area of activity.

This internship was a very general one so I was able to work in many different areas of FSFE’s activity. The offered internship is mostly about Document Freedom Day, FSFE’s largest campaign in which I also invested a lot of time. I’m quite sure that this position is also very interesting — and very important as well! So if you want to take responsibility and want to learn much about collaboration, worldwide activism and public relations, go ahead and apply for this internship!

If you are interested in this internship but you have some questions left, please feel free to ask me anything.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Three Autumn events 2014

FSFE Fellowship Vienna » English | 12:08, Thursday, 23 October 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.

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