Bern council demands transition to open source


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The council of the Swiss capital of Bern on 12 November ordered the IT department to end its dependence on proprietary software. The council halved the city’s request for a six-year licence contract, and insisted on an exit plan. A majority of councillors wants the city to replace proprietary software by open source solutions, such as Linux and LibreOffice.

The exit plan should be based on pilot projects that consider alternatives, the city council decided. With 53 of the total 67 votes, the council changed the city’s desktop software plans. The councillors want applications to become independent from PC operating system or office productivity tools. And in late 2018, when desktop operating and office licences expire, Bern has to publish an open call for tender, using vendor-neutral specifications.

“Basically, from now on, the IT department may only procure and implement solutions that are platform-independent”, the councillors agreed on Thursday.

Procurement checklist

The city’s request for a six year extension of the current proprietary licences was rejected. Instead, the council agreed on CHF 2.4 million (about EUR 2,2 million), allowing the software to be used until late 2018.

In a statement on 13 November, the Swiss Open Open Systems User Group /ch/open welcomed the change in IT strategy of the capital. The group offered to help the city with its exit plan, pointing to documentation such as a checklist to help public administrations to procure open source software solutions.

Matthias Stürmer, member of the Bern city council and member of the commission responsible to monitor the IT department, called change of plans a major success. “A vast majority of the city council voted to stop the dependence on Microsoft products”, he said.

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France’s citizens vote in favour of open source



Free software’s use in public sector in top three of votes for ‘Digital Republic’

France’s citizens are in favour of their public administrations’ use of free and open source software. France should also implement this type of software in education, according to the results of a public consultation on France’s Digital Republic bill (La République numérique). After twenty days of public debate and voting on proposals, the consultation ended on Sunday. La République numérique – the Digital Republic – drew 147,710 votes, received 8501 proposals and attracted 21,330 participants.

The proposals will now be considered by the French government. “In a few days we will see if they are included in the bill that will be submitted to the parliament”, writes April, France’s free software advocacy group. April’s proposal to make free software the priority for public administrations came in 3rd, in the top-ten of most-voted proposals.

Freedom of information

Another suggestion by April, to equate the source code of government software solutions to (public) administrative documents, also got a lot of support from voters. This proposal is 7th in the top-ten of votes. In the days running up to the consultation’s deadline, April had been asking its supporters to vote for its proposals.

Similarly, the Conseil National du Logiciel Libre, a trade group representing some three hundred ICT firms, had been calling on its members and supporters to participate and vote. CNLL is advocating the use of open standards, and wants public administrations to give priority to free software.

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Is Microsoft is in secret negotiations to purchase Canonical, the Ubuntu company?


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A recent rumor has sparked waves of fear and outrage throughout the Linux community. The word is that Microsoft is in secret negotiations to purchase Canonical, the Ubuntu company.

With Ubuntu and its derivatives installed on millions of home computers and Web servers, the takeover would be disruptive to say the least. After all, in a world where most people think that Windows is “just how computers work”, not using Microsoft products is a deliberate choice. If Microsoft bought Canonical, millions of users would have to jump ship or accept life under the Microsoft banner.

Of course, Canonical is no stranger to controversy. It has been involved in very public licensing disputes with the Free Software Foundation. Its decision to include Amazon ads in Ubuntu’s menu system was seen as a crass attempt to cash in on users. And, there have been concerns over the company’s treatment of private data, with users’ search information transmitted to its corporate servers.

But when all is said and done, few would deny that Canonical is a valuable member of the Linux community. Its hundreds of developers contribute to the Linux kernel, the Debian project and its own open-source projects, which are available to the entire community.

The same sentiment does not hold true for Microsoft, even though it is now one of the largest corporate contributors to the Linux kernel. Of course, most of those contributions are driven by the company’s own requirements.

So, is there any truth to these mysterious murmurings?

To begin with, where do they come from? The “news” comes from a single tech blog, which in turn credits two undisclosed “sources within the community”. Following the original publication, some readers demanded clarification. After all, if we don’t know who these sources are, how can we tell if their information is valid?

The author of the article refused to give up his sources but contacted Microsoft and Canonical for an official statement on the rumor. Within a few hours, Microsoft declined to comment, and “an employee” of Canonical (actually the CEO) categorically denied the rumor.

Now, of course, it is possible that this is just a smoke screen, and that neither side is going to make an announcement until the deal is finalized, but it seems highly unlikely, especially given the nature of Canonical.

Canonical was founded with the goal of bringing Linux to the desktop. In particular, it aims to break the Microsoft monopoly in that space. This spirit is encapsulated in bug report #1 (, which calls Microsoft’s market share a bug (Microsoft has said worse things about Linux, by the way).

In addition, Canonical is not a profitable company. It appears to be making a huge financial loss each year (more than $10 million according to its UK tax filings). The majority of its software is open source, so there’s little potential for developing an income stream from selling licenses for those products. And Canonical has around 600 employees–from a purely financial view, that’s a sizable liability.

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My suspicion is that Microsoft would steer clear of the strongly anti-Microsoft user base that Canonical possess. But …

Vocational Education in the Netherlands adopts LPI Certification


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 The Linux Professional Institute (LPI), the world’s premier Linux certification organization, announced that its partner organization LPI-Netherlands has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ECABO, Netherlands’s Center of Expertise on Vocational Education, Training and Labor Market to include LPI certifications in their curriculum. ECABO works for the entire range of vocational training in the Netherlands representing lower and senior secondary vocational education and higher vocational education. For example ECABO supports nearly 90,000 students in the senior secondary vocational education sector alone.

Under this agreement ECABO will include LPI certification within its blueprint for ICT vocational training within the senior secondary education market. In offering students the opportunity of obtaining LPI certifications while pursuing their chosen field of vocational training ECABO is certain future graduates may significantly enhance their position in the labor market.

“We see an annual growth rate of Linux deployments in companies and with governments of 8-10 percent”, said Emiel Brok, chairman of LPI-Netherlands. “However, further growth may be reduced due to a shortage in well-trained and properly certified Linux professionals. This initiative on the part of ECABO should ensure that the growing popularity and adoption of Linux and Open Source Software continues in the Netherlands,” added Brok. LPI-Netherlands will work with ECABO and other organizations in the future to inform human resources departments and other employment agencies on the value of hiring LPI-certified staff. LPI-Netherlands will also extend LPI-Approved Academic Partner (LPI-AAP) status to senior secondary training organizations which participate in this new program.

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Galicia embraces open source


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The government of Galicia (Spain) has made available three open source solutions over the past year, one for PC classrooms, one for land-management, and a third for computer network enhancement. The tools are available at Galicia’s software repository, and information about the solutions is now also available at Spain’s Centre for Technology Transfer (CTT).

Adding the three to CTT’s catalogue will help dissemination of the tools, Galicia explains in a statement on 8 June. Adding the tools to CTT’s catalogue is also a requirement of Spain’s national interoperability framework, the government notes.

The first software solution added by Galicia is XEA. This web application helps to manage all the resources of PC classrooms. Amtega, Galicia’s agency for technological modernisation, manages 98 such classrooms across the region. XEA allows users to find out which trainings are currently being offered and lets them register. At the same time, XEA helps local classrooms to plan activities. The PC classrooms are part of Galicia’s so-called CEMIT project, aiming to reduce the digital divide by offering free courses.

XEA is an adaptation of a solution developed for the region of Castille and Leon, called ISIS.

The second solution, Desourb, which stands for sustainable urban development, is a land-management planning tool. The software allows for combining sets of geographic data to be used for research and analysis. The tool is an outcome of a collaborative project involving administrations in Portugal and Spain, and is partly funded by the European Union.

The third tool, called Concurrent Cache Manager (CMM), is aimed at IT system administrators, and helps speed-up the exchange of data between public employment agency of the region and the state. The software, a collection of Java modules, can be used by any regional employment service that connects to Spain’s public employment agency.

All three projects are published under the Apache software license.

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170 Primary Public Schools In Geneva Switch To Ubuntu


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Primary Schools in Geneva switch to Ubuntu

Schools in Geneva, Switzerland have taken a key step in switching from standard software to open source software based on Ubuntu Linux. A key step to saving money for hard pressed school districts.

In a drive to get rid of proprietary software, all primary and secondary schools in Geneva, Switzerland will be switching to switching to GNU/Linux. PCs used by teachers and students in these schools will run Ubuntu instead of other proprietary operating system (read Windows). In fact, PCs in 170 primary public schools are already running Ubuntu while 20 secondary schools will do the switch in next school year.

Each classroom has one PC that can be used by the teachers and the students in primary schools. All of these run Ubuntu now. The switch in secondary schools has not been completed yet as one of the language tool only runs on Windows:

“Where possible, we’ll be phasing out the proprietary systems. For now, one language teaching tool will only work on a proprietary operating system, so we will not be able to get rid of them all.”

Years of effort

‘Service écoles-médias‘ (SEM), part of Geneva’s IT department, moved to Ubuntu instead of upgrading to Windows 8 after Windows XP support ended. But it was not a sudden move. SEM had been planning the switch to GNU/Linux for some years. It created the inventory of PC hardware and networking capabilities. It also searched and tested the alternative applications in Linux to replace the existing prosperity software.

In addition, it created a detailed user guide for teachers and students, organize teacher trainings and host an online forum for teachers to make them at home with GNU/Linux.
Ups and downs

The biggest thing in favor of the switch was the ease with which Ubuntu works. Roiron, head f the Open Standards and Free Software project at the Geneva State Department for Education, said “We’ve showed them how easy it is to use Ubuntu, and how we can help in several ways, including on-site and remote.”

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Also see further news on successful adoption of Ubuntu by schools:

School: Ubuntu & open source reduces PC troubleshooting


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Using open source in school greatly reduces the time needed to troubleshoot PCs, shows the case of the Colegio Agustinos de León (Augustinian College of León, Spain). In 2013, the school switched to using Ubuntu Linux for its desktop PCs in class rooms and offices. For teachers and staff, the amount of technical issues decreased by 63 per cent and in the school’s computer labs by 90 per cent, says Fernando Lanero, computer science teacher and head of the school’s IT department.

The school in total has 120 PCs used by teachers, staff and students.

“One year after we changed PC operating system, I have objective data on Ubuntu Linux”, Lanero tells Muy Linux, a Spanish Linux news site. By switching to Linux, incidents such as computer viruses, system degradation and many diverse technical issues disappeared instantly.

The change also helps the school save money, he adds. Not having to purchase licences for proprietary operating systems, office suites and anti-virus tools has already saved about EUR 35,000 in the 2014-2015 school year, Lanero says. “Obviously it is much more interesting to invest that money in education.”

Switching to a new desktop PC environment was harder for staff than for students, the computer science teacher says. “Students are eager to work with GNU/Linux, because of its association with hackers. It is adding to their motivation. You cannot imagine how well Wikileak’s Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, a former contractor at America’s National Security Agency, are helping to promote free software.”


The biggest hurdle for the IT department was the use of electronic whiteboards. The school uses 30 of such whiteboards, and their manufacturer does not support the use of Linux. Lanero got the Spanish Linux community involved, and “after their hard work, Ubuntu Linux now includes support for the whiteboards, so now everything is working as it should.”

Other problems were caused by proprietary documents, especially spreadsheets. Some of the more pernicious issues were temporarily resolved by using a cloud-based proprietary office solution, says Lanero, giving the IT department time to complete the switch to open standards-based office solutions. The school now mostly uses the LibreOffice suite of office tools.

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Great to hear another success story for Ubuntu!

James Goode

Tendron Systems

Automotive Linux Summit – Tokyo 1-2 June 2015

The Automotive Linux Summit gathers together the most innovative minds from automotive expertise and open-source excellence including automotive systems engineers, Linux experts, R&D managers, business executives, open-source licensing and compliance specialists and community developers. The event connects the developer community driving the innovation in this area together with the vendors and users providing and using the code in order to drive the future of embedded devices in the automotive arena.

Who Attends

  • Over 300 attendees will gather at ALS 2015, which will be co-located with LinuxCon + CloudOpen Japan.

Chuck@Home | GPG Made a comeback in my workflow

GPG Cheat Sheet

GPG (Gnu Privacy Guard) is a piece of software that can basically do two things:

encrypt/decrypt every kind of data so that only you or the persons you choose are able to read/use it.
sign/verify data so that you can be sure that the data originates from the person you think it originates from.

Link to the official GPG project
Why use it?

Whether or not you want to use encryption is of course up to you. Something that many people don’t seem to keep in mind is that E-mail is not confidential in any way. It’s as if you were writing on postcards, not even using an envelope. Everyone who happens to handle the e-mail or access the account on the server can read the entire mail without you noticing. If you want any modicum of privacy in your email, tweets, documents, chats – you should defininately consider it. I encrypt my mail traffic and have started signing my mails so recipients have it on good faith that the email has originated from me.

Should they want to send me something in private, the fact I’m signing these e-mails with my public key affords them the opportunity to do so. It’s a win/win – you know it’s me, and you can talk to me in secret if you have some account credentials to mail over (for example).

I really have to applaud the efforts of, trying to make security through GPG a popular item again. I’ve recently seen the volume of PGP verified mail subside as we move to a more mobile web. Abandoning cryptography in the wake of convenience of swiping communications off screen, and not really caring who the originator was. We take full faith from the From: line assuming our Big Provider has done their due dilligence in keeping out the riff raff.

Keybase makes it easier for cryptography noobies to get started, by giving them a Browser based implementation of OpenPGP. There are some concerns there by security experts – as there should be. But there’s nothing stopping you from using normal GPG with the service – and uploading only your public key to Keybase.

In Addendum, they also offer a public verification service – where you can sign messages with your GPG key and have them verified in keybase – to identify that you are who you say you are across some of the most popular online networks.

Pretty cool!

Chuck@Home | GPG Made a comeback in my workflow.

UK makes ODF its official documents format standard

In 2006 and 2007, there was an enormous documents standards war between Microsoft, with its OpenXML documents format, and the open-source community with its Open Document Format (ODF).

In the end, Microsoft, while  eventually supporting ODF , won. ODF, while still supported by such popular open-source office suites as LibreOffice and OpenOffice, became something of an after-thought.

The UK Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude, said in prepared remarks the, “Government will begin using open formats that will ensure that citizens and people working in government can use the applications that best meet their needs when they are viewing or working on documents together.”

Specifically the selected standards are:

  • PDF/A or HTML for viewing government documents
  • ODF for sharing or collaborating on government documents

The UK made this decision, Maude said, because: “Our long-term plan for a stronger economy is all about helping UK businesses grow. We have listened to those who told us that open standards will reduce their costs and make it easier to work with government. This is a major step forward for our digital-by-default agenda which is helping save citizens, businesses and taxpayers £1.2 billion ($2.05bn) over this Parliament.”

Andrew Updegrove, a world-recognized standards expert and founding partner of the law firm Gesmer Updegrove, said on his standards blog, ConsortiumInfo, about the decision:

“The U.K. Cabinet Office accomplished today what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts set out (unsuccessfully) to achieve ten years ago: it formally required compliance with the ODF by software to be purchased in the future across all government bodies. Compliance with any of the existing versions of OOXML, the competing document format championed by Microsoft, is neither required nor relevant.”

In an e-mail interview, Updegrove told ZDNet that it’s been a “very long and difficult road” for anyone watching the saga.

“But in the end, the sound reasons for insisting on truly open, independent standards created with the user and not the vendor in mind has begun to prevail,” he said.

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