My participation in the FSFE 2019 GA meeting in Essen

View on the Ruhr at the venue.

Thankful to be among the guests that the FSFE GA invited to join their meeting, I went on 11 October 2019 to the Linuxhotel “Villa Vogelsang” in Essen.

Unfortunately it was not possible to buy a separate ticket for the S-bahn on the website of Deutsche Bahn, so I stood in line at their service desk at Oberhausen railway station to buy a paper ticket. The app they provide for this is only published for use on proprietary software phones.

The meetings were held in a comfortable noise-free conference room, with lots of daylight coming in, slightly filtered by the surrounded green. GA members and guests were sitting next to each other, tables placed in a square.

Before the GA there was a preperation session where members could ask questions and clarifications so that the GA itself would run smoothly. Other elements of the meeting included reports by the council and workgroup discussions about topics ranging form security to sustainability and business models.

It was nice to meet active people in the community and I now got a better understanding of what the GA is and how it works.

Dutch coalition agreement: where’s the trust in Free Software?

The new Dutch government, consisting of liberal-conservatives (VVD), christian democrats (CDA), democrats (D66) and orthodox protestants (CU), published the new coalition agreement: Vertrouwen in de toekomst (“Trust in the future”). I searched through all sections of this document, searching for the word “software”.

According to the new government, software is a matter for the justice department. Software is not mentioned in any other section, including the economic, education, labor policy, innovation policy and living environment sections.

So it’s the minister of justice who deals with software. Software is mentioned at two places in the justice section:

  • The making of a cybersecurity agenda, including the stimulation of companies to make software safer through software liability.
  • Buying hacksoftware for the Dutch intelligence service.

This means software is being seen as:

  • Unsafe, and the state will ensure it’s going to be safer.
  • A tool to further build the Dutch surveillance and control state.

There’s a world of possibilities to use (existing!) Free Software to strengthen the economy, provide the youth with real education and turn the Netherlands into a more innovative and livable part of Europe. Apparently this is not a priority. Where’s the trust in Free Software?

My participation in the first FSFE Summit and 15th anniversary celebration

FSFE Summit. 2-4 september. BCC Berlin

From 2 to 4 September I’ve been in Free Berlin to participate in the first FSFE Summit and in the 15th anniversary celebration. Thanks to FSFE I’ve met interesting people, discovered surprising technologies and heard inspiring talks from people of all walks of life. It was an honour to speak about translating for Free Software.

In the BCC I attended the following:

Let’s enable people to control technology in their own language

Cryptie and I gave a talk about translating for Free Software, titled “Let’s enable people to control technology in their own language“.

FSFE Birthday party

FSFE had it’s 15th birthday party in c-base, which ensured the event to be future compatible. With other members of the movement I was declared a “FSFE local hero”, for which I’m very thankful to the FSFE.

With special thanks to Erik Albers and Cellini Bedi, who used their skills to organise a very positive, inspiring and memorable experience.

Free Software PDF-Campaign: It isn’t over until it is over

After FSFE decided to officially end the PDF-campaign, the situation in the Netherlands still asked for action.

Having translated the Free Software PDF Readers-story into Dutch, I recently stumbled upon a proprietary PDF-ad on Digid.nl. This is a website of the Dutch government and it’s log-in technology is used by a lot of websites in this country – both from the government as well as non-government like health insurance companies.

By e-mail I politely asked the authorities to withdraw the ad. In two weeks I was called by a friendly civil servant who informed me that they removed the ad.

Why we convinced a Dutch government agency to use an Open Document format

When it comes to the use of Open Document formats in the public administration of the Netherlands there is no law. There is the “apply or explain”-rule which among other things means that a public administration has to use Open Standards unless they specifically explain why they can’t. As this rule has no teeth, all you can do is to politely ask a civil servant to use Open Standards.

Which we did. The Antenna Office, part of the Telecom Agency, regularly publishes a document with all legal antenna systems in the country. They did this in a proprietary spreadsheet document format. After a tip from Kevin Keijzer, I politely requested them to change this. I got a fast reaction, stating that after receiving several similar requests, they decided now to change to .ods immediately with their next publication.

More information on Open Document formats is on the Document Freedom Day website.