Open Source Politics

It is no secret that in the United Kingdom we are far behind many countries in our use of open source software. Now there are no doubt many reasons for this both social, economic and political but a major factor must be the approach of the Government. The Government has direct influence over the public sector the biggest consumer of IT and also over Education which lays many of the foundations to our use of computers.

At a time when we can not be far from an election the Labour party does not appear to have a coherent policy on open source software. This is in stark contrast to the other major parties who take all opportunities to say how much they love open source. Now I am as cynical as the next person and of course it is very easy to be a crowd pleaser when you are in opposition and delivering on your promises appears a long way off.

Even with plenty of sound bites it was still difficult to get a clear picture of each parties approach towards open source. In a true unbiased fashion I have listed in alphabetical order what I could glean from the major parties:

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The Conservatives website was actually quite good, has relatively easy navigation and a reasonable search facility. They are also very keen to advertise there ‘Web 2.0’ badges with Twitter, Facebook, Bebo and Myspace links. With successful use of Web 2.0 and social networking in The Barack Obama campaign I am surprised that all parties are not so positive with their use of social networking.

The following comments were taken from speeches

David Cameron

“We will follow private sector best practice which is to introduce ‘open standards’ that enables IT contracts to be split up into modular components. So never again could there be projects like Labour’s hubristic NHS supercomputer. And we will create a level playing field for open source software in IT procurement and open up the procurement system to small and innovative companies…

Full details on The Conservative website

“What it is about is better and more effective government. The problem is that the cultural change has not taken place in government. There isn’t a level playing field for open source software. As it stands, too many companies are frozen out of government IT contracts, stifling competition and driving up costs.

“Taking into account the experience of companies and public sector bodies, it is estimated that the Government could save at least 5% of its annual IT bill if more open source software was used as part of a more effective procurement strategy. That adds up to over £600m a year. The internet age is transforming politics and has the capacity to transform government. Let’s start being open source right now.”

George Osborne talking about new media

Instead of experts deciding which order to rank the web pages in, the on-line community decides collectively by its actions.
Another example is Linux. Linux is the open-source operating system that is the main rival to Microsoft Windows.
Linux is constantly updated and improved. Yet no one owns Linux. No one is directing the improvements or updates. The code is available on-line and thousands of independent programmers make changes, fix bugs, and add new features – all for no personal gain.

Full details on the Conservatives website

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OK the Green Party may not be seen as a major party in the UK but it would still be a shame not to give them a mention when presumably they would be so supportive of any open source initiatives. To be fair there is not a great deal of information about open source to be found from the greens but that maybe understandable given their resources and what they may see as the core messages. Never the less there are a few sound bites about such as:

Open source software should be more widely available in order to help reduce the ‘digital divide’, according to Dr Caroline Lucas, Green MEP forthe South East. Liberal Democrats

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The Labour Party’s website, at least to me, appeared the least friendly (no Obama-esque Web 2.0 friendlyness here) and offered no real information on open source. Further digging around only really turned up criticism for their lack of policy (again this is to be expected – it is politics) and overall it was disappointing.

The only interesting thing I found out about (not open source related) on the puffbox blog here was that they do have a twitter account “UKlabour” (“Labour” was taken by the Irish Labour Party – ooh that must hurt!)

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The Liberal Democrats website may not be as slick as The Conservatives but they do have a creative commons license on their site and appear to be the only party who talk about using open source software themselves:

Rugby based Open Source IT Consultancy credativ has been awarded a contract by the Liberal Democrats to provide server migration and support for its IT systems that are based on free open source software.

What the Liberal Democrats do have is John Pugh an MP who appears to know what he is talking about when it comes to open source software and open standards. Some great information on John Pugh on the Open Rights Group Wiki here http://www.openrightsgroup.org/orgwiki/index.php/John_Pugh_MP

John Pugh as quoted on the Open Rights Group Wiki

Westminster Hall debate Government IT and Software Procurement 9 October 2007

… Four things ought to be avoided. The first is a lock-in, an indefinite commitment to a single proprietary solution—endless licensing renewal that the Government simply cannot get out of. Secondly, there must obviously be interoperability; its absence will always be a problem, because it limits the growth and integration of whatever software has been bought, as well as one’s choice of supplier. Thirdly, it is preferable to have access to the source code, so that if necessary people can understand what they have. Finally, it is extraordinarily helpful to have a good skills base on the client side, so that people know what they are dealing with.
On that basis, one would expect the Government to have made use of the growing British open-source software industry, which is by and large highly successful, although there are exceptions. It is successful in a number of operations known to all, such as eBay, Amazon, banks and stock exchanges and so on. …

More about John Pugh can be found at his website http://www.johnpughmp.com/ which runs on Joomla the open source CMS (Content Management System).

Bournemouth 2008: Vince Cable speech

We’ve got to stop the gravy train of management consultancy in government; stop questionable government IT projects like that for the NHS and insist that procurement is from the cheapest, open source; and take an axe to the overgrown thickets of quango land.

More here http://www.libdems.org.uk/conference/bournemouth-2008-vince-cable-speech-982960;show

Overall the main parties policies could be a lot clearer on open source and maybe in the run up to any election they will make more definate statements but for now I will continue to follow this area with interest.

Software freedom Day 2008 – This Saturday

FirefoxScreenSnapz009.jpg This Saturday is Software Freedom Day (Worldwide). From The Software Freedom Website:

Software Freedom Day is a global celebration and education of why transparent and sustainable technologies are now more important than ever. With over 200 teams in 60 countries participating, it is a fantastic event to get your schools and communities involved in. Go along to your local event or start your own event and meet a wide range of people, all working together to help ensure our freedoms are maintained by the technologies of tomorrow.

Locally to me the nearest event, I am aware of, is in Manchester organised by Manchester Free Software details here.

With family commitments I can not go to Manchester on Saturday but it makes me think about what I can do at a personnel level to promote free and open source software. I recently did an Infopoint (http://infopointproject.org) at the Trentham Gardens (Stoke) Northern Computer Market. The purpose of an Infopoint is to promote free software by giving away copies of the Opendisc, and Linux Distros. I gave away mainly Ubuntu. Northern Computer Markets support this by offering free tables where they can. Althought the Infopoint projects website has not been updated for a while Infopoints are still active around the country often supported by local Linux User Groups.

Alan Cocks who is an active organiser of Infopoints and LUG member has also organised the Bracknell Software Freedom Day event details here. I would like to do another Infopoint in the near future possibly in Wolverhampton.

I am also helping my family use free and open source software with my parents and son using Linux Mint and my wife using Ubuntu. I think that helping friends and family use free software is a small thing that all free software enthusiasts can do (and I am sure a lot already do). With two children in primary school I also want to understand how schools are (not) using free software.

A map of all Free Software Events worldwide is here.

Too Many Blogs?

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I have setup and used many blogs with blogger, livejournal, tumblr, .mac etc. As much as I enjoy writing blog posts I like to play with the technology and see how the different services work. I had a main blog for a few years at outserve.biz a yahoo hosted wordpress blog. Due to work commitments outserve.biz became little more than my delicious tags being automatically posted everyday (not a great idea if you re not posting anything else).

As part of rationalising my blogs I have completely deleted outserve.biz and cancelled my hosting plan, which at 5.99 gave little value (sorry yahoo but I think you have bigger problems than that at the moment). I have also tried to streamline the blogs that are left, which are below and all running on the latest version of WordPress.

pocartoon.jpgphilipoakley.org – I intend to keep this as my personal blog to add my own personal comments on anything i feel is interesting although I am sure that that most of it will be tech related. I am not looking to put a lot of family stuff, photos etc as I have other placces for that. I also intend to use it as a space to test themes, plugins and widgets as thats what I like doing.

crossingplatforms.com
– A relatively new site where I wanted to talk about software that
could be used on Windows, Mac and Linux. I use all three platforms and
like to use software that can run on all 3 (e.g. Firefox). I find it useful to be using similar software across all machines and to be able to share files with the same format (e.g. OpenOffice).
I also think that using this software offers more freedom to the users
it does not lack you into one operating system provider and can
facilitate moving to another os e.g. windows to linux. Although it is
not a prerequisite a lot of the software will no doubt be free and open
source.

flosbuslogo.gifflosbus.com – (Free Libre Open Source BUsiness Software) now one of my older blogs I set this blog up to do mini reviews of open source business software such as ERP, CRM, BI etc. I am looking to expand this site to include news and anything that is relevant to this topic.


EPSOutserve.jpgOutserve Blog – this is the company blog of my company Outserve Limited and I want this blog to just contain news and views relating to the company.

I have a few more domain names but will just look to point those as the existing blogs above. I am trying to keep the blogs to a sensible number (4 or less) but already have another 3 ideas for 3 more.

Happy Birthday GNU – with Stephen Fry

Just found this post on Alan Lord’s blog The Open Sourcerer celebrating 25 years of GNU.

The video is now on youtube (as below) but for the freedom fighters it is available in ogg vorbis format here which can be played on VLC the cross platform media player or as Alan quite rightly puts it:

If you are one of those poor souls still using proprietary software, you might need to read this first. The video is encoded in Ogg, a free an un-patent encumbered format that is really free to use. Of course you could go and download a free operating system too and rid yourself of the shackles and chains which Stephen so eloquently describes.

Wordle – Arty Tag Clouds

I have liked tag clouds for a while as they show in a quick visual snapshot what you often cannot see from the core data. Wordle have taken Tag Clouds and added a bit of style and I think the results are really interesting. Not sure how useful they are as they also take text from a blog as well as tags but they sure are pretty.

The first Wordle cloud is my delicious tags and the second is taken from this blog.

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WordPress iphone app

A wordpress iPhone app has now been released to what appears to be mixed reviews. I am testing this by posting from the middle of cannock chase so if this us successful then I will be happy with the app because this would me very difficult to do over the web over a slow connection.

The photo insert option does not appear clear but I think it will post it at the bottom of this post. Hopefully it will show the view from where I am sitting.

Links and video added after initial post from iphone:

http://iphone.wordpress.org/

Welcome to nobody cares…

Looking through gapingvoid last night for inspiration for business cards I re-found one of my all time favourites:

should be a caping void cartoon here
And Dennis Howlett also wrote the The “Nobody Cares” Manifesto For Accountants which I liked as well:

* It’s important to remember debits are on the left and credits on the right – nobody cares. Probably because the system was invented in 1494 and hasn’t changed since.

* We work hard to earn letters behind our names – nobody cares. Importance isn’t derived from academic achievement but what you do for others.

* ROI is an important concept – nobody cares. ROI calculations are something you do when you really don’t want to help your client but to demonstrate to him/her how important you are. For which read 2.

* It’s important to keep good records – nobody cares. Clients aren’t in business to be administrators. If you can’t figure out how to help clients then expect to be outsourced. Probably the day after tomorrow.

* A tidy office implies a tidy mind – nobody cares. A tidy mind is often compartmentalised to the point of tunnel vision. You don’t see tidy at the edge of innovation. Which is where you should be when your clients come up with great ideas.

* Professionals should always wear top quality suits – nobody cares. How you look may be important if your name’s Anina but it sure as heck doesn’t matter when you’re traipsing around a pig farm. You do that occasionally don’t you?

* Your professional status among the community demonstrates integrity – nobody believes you. Professional status is over-rated. Those schmuks from KPMG in court on fraud charges sorted that one out once and for all.

* Adding value is the most important thing you have to do – nobody believes you. Clients can read a 1,000 websites and see that same vacuuous statement. Stuff your website with client stories, preferably written by clients and not some PR outfit.

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Wiki Links for FLOSS Business Software

Wikipedia logoGood documentation can separate great software from good software. Documentation is an area where open source often beats proprietary solutions hands down. Often up to date and user friendly documentation for proprietary software does not exist, is not available or is restricted by software vendors or resellers for commercial gain.

Many, but not all, open source solutions have a far more open and collaborative approach to documentation recently highlighted by Compiere’s launch of their wiki.

The definition of a wiki aptly taken from Wikipedia, which of course is the most well know wiki, is as follows:

“A wiki is a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.”

Wiki WednesdayWiki Wednesday’s is a group of people who are interested in Wiki’s and social media. The next London meeting is on 13th August details here.

A have put a list of links to some of the most well know FLOSS business software wiki’s below but of course there are many more.

MediaWikiThere is no shortage of open source wiki software and MediaWiki is the software used and developed for Wikipedia is open source under the GPL. Of the above wiki’s SugarCRM, Alfresco and Openbravo all use Wikimedia.

WordPress 2.6

I have now upgraded to WordPress 2.6 on most of my blogs. Some cool new features, I particular like the new options on images to reduce by a %. Great plugin for automatic upgrades here. The video supplied from WordPress is below showing some of the new features: