Where .geek meets .org - FOSDEM 2007
Tuesday February 27th 2007, 0:50h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Linux, Research

Although quite long and expensive, the trip to FOSDEM 2007 in Brussels was absolutely great! After skipping the Beer Event Friday night since I had to finish my slides, I joined the keynote presentations on Saturday morning. The organizing team opened the conference with their traditional FOSDEM dance, followed by a more serious speech about resp. against software patents in Europe. Then, Jim Gettys talked about current hardware issues in the OLPC project by listing the impressive entrails of the upcoming mobile device, e.g. the 1200×900 pixel screen making it a nice 200dpi e-book reader. In the sleek presentation of Simon Phipps, he explained Sun’s reasons to open up Java - even by letting people from the free Java projects speak about their opinions and future plans.

Many many smart brains

Later on in the ResearchRoom@FOSDEM, the several million Euro funded EU research projects on OSS were outlined by their representants. Starting with Rishab Gosh, he presented the goals and design of the soon finished FLOSSWorld project which conducted 40 surveys in different countries all over the world and which results will be presented in an EU workshop in May 2007. Then, Georgios Gousios explained how the SQO-OSS project quantitatively analyzes the source code, the code repository and mailing lists of open source projects in order to measure software quality. After that I visited the presentation of Linux kernel developer Andrew Morton whom I sat next to in the morning and thus got some interesting information about his previous work at OSDL and the current one at Google. While taking place in the small 72-seats Embedded room, there were probably as many people at the great OpenMoKo presentation as in the main hall… (see also photos)

Sean Moss-Pultz presenting the ambitious roadmap

The other day started with my presentation on issues about firm involvement in OSS and Cristina Rossi’s on her current paper on this topic. During the short panel we had some interesting discussions with the other participants, Carlos Guerreiro (OSSO Desktop team leader at Nokia), Xavier Heymans (CEO of Zea Partners) and Kurt Gramlich (German project lead of Skolelinux). In the following discussion researchers asked how they are able to support OSS developers in their work - again a very intriguing question not easy to answer for both sides.

Kurt, Xavier, Carlos, Cristina and myself at the panel discussion on firm issues

The next, more practitioner oriented presentation was given by Murray Cumming about Glom, a easy to use Access-like database tool for GNOME. And as a great conclusion I finally visited for the first time one of the very entertaining (and little bit informative, too) performances of Miguel de Icaza.

Miguel de Icaza in the intellectual Steve Jobs-like fashion presenting Mono

So it was really a nice weekend networking among other OSS researchers, talking to Nokia and Maemo.org developers for further interviews and getting contacts of OSS projects for the next but one OpenExpo event on September 19th and 20th, 2007 in Zürich. And, after all, the trip was great since Emanuel Indermühle came along, my renowned companion for many software adventures. (e.g. getting to know Ruby on Rails on our 7h-trip back to Bern and finding out that our Vida framework beats it by far ;)

Emanuel and I with the upcoming One-Laptop-Per-Child device

Discussion on Company Involvement in OSS Projects
Wednesday February 21st 2007, 18:53h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Linux, Research

Next weekend I’ll be going for the first time to Brussels to participate at FOSDEM leading a panel discussion on company involvement in open source projects. Conversating with Cristina Rossi it seems a hot topic in current academic OSS research since she’ll also present a paper on this issue. I’m very excieted proposing some questions and discuss them with present OSS developers (if they’re also interested in the topic). In the opening presentation I’ll probably talk a little bit about our current research project on the Nokia Internet Tablet - something I presented today at the Open Business Lunch in Bern (in German).

Why are bananas in Switzerland cheaper than apples?
Sunday February 18th 2007, 0:44h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade

This simple question was the start of the so called ‘banana women‘ in the 1970s, the start of the fairtrade movement in Switzerland. Yesterday, the last of these brave women, Ursula Brunner, co-organized a conference on fairtrade labels in Bern (documentation) and I was one of the about 300 attendees (newspaper article in “Der Bund”). Stimulus of the event were the emerging labelling efforts of multinationals - also called ‘greenwashing‘ in NGO terminology. Indeed, the numerous speakers during the day confirmed this allegation to a certain point. Especially the obvious dispute of labor union representatives from Costa Rica and a Chiquita spokesperson demonstrated that the company’s labelling effort with the Rainforest Alliance was not yet sufficient to satisfy the needs of the workers. For me, particularly this label seems highly doubtful due to the statements of the speakers and also because of its representative at the conference showing a quite unsensitive way on how to communicate with the labor force. Besides some insights I gained on the ‘label industry’ - whose two competing goals are credibility and efficiency as Prof. Guido Palazzo explained well - I realized the need of fairtrade going even more mass market as Martin Rohner of Max Havelaar envisioned.

Hernan Hermosilla and Gilber Bermudez from Costa Rica

Workshop summary in the plenum

Ursula Brunner during her impressive closing statement

Politics and God
Wednesday February 14th 2007, 14:02h
Filed under: Politics, Private

Dominic Roser was here for lunch and we discussed interesting philosophical and religious issues on how the bible can be interpreted. He pointed me to the leftish religious website Sojourners, founded by Jim Wallis. In a recent interview Wallis states:

“Jesus didn’t speak at all about homosexuality. There are about 12 verses in the Bible that touch on that question … [t]here are thousands of verses on poverty. I don’t hear a lot of that conversation.”

In the above interview he explains that in the US the religious right is very strong in Bible language, talking about Christian values. But when it comes down to action they narrow the topics to abortion and gay marriage. However, Wallis points out the thousands of Bible verses about poverty and wonders why those are not topic of their political program. In his new book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It he talks about what the Bible has to say about poverty, the environment and war:

Through a conversational combination of first-person stories, news analysis, statistics and old fashion preaching (on the written page), Wallis paints a very different picture of what religion means than the one President Bush and many of his supporters have in mind.

For me, it seems the US is much further in such discussions how Christians should act politically. Here in Switzerland we have two politically opposite parties, the EVP and the EDU. But so far I have never met a discussion why they usually act completely different (except maybe on topics of abortion and gay marriage) while basing both their values on the Bible. Therefore I welcome the value campaign of the EVP, clearly formulating for what the Christian party acts politically.

Speaker Schedule of OpenExpo 2007 Bern published
Monday February 12th 2007, 15:50h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Ubuntu

After getting the flyer and all the texts ready I published today the speaker schedule of the OpenExpo 2007 in Bern. Have a look at the interesting program and the great open source projects presented on March 7th and 8th, 2007! BTW, I’m very happy that also the Swiss Ubuntu team will be present at the event ;)

Update: heise open has posted a note about our event, great!

Linux in the News
Wednesday February 07th 2007, 11:04h
Filed under: Linux

Last week, Markus Wernig wrote a great column about Microsoft Vista and what kinds of sorrows he missed by not switching.

Convert .otf to .ttf Font on Ubuntu
Monday February 05th 2007, 19:41h
Filed under: FLOSS, Linux, Ubuntu

Finally, after testing several programs such as Fondu or FontForge, I found a nice script by Thomas Maier and was able to create a TrueType font out of a OpenType one (e.g. because OpenOffice.org doesn’t support .otf) by using FontForge:

# Quick and dirty hack: converts a font to truetype (.ttf)
Print("Opening "+$1);
Print("Saving "+$1:r+".ttf");

Save the script as otf2ttf.sh and type:

fontforge -script otf2ttf.sh FONTNAME.otf

If you want to convert many .otf fonts in a directory to .ttf fonts, type (thanks sw!):

for i in *.otf; do fontforge -script otf2ttf.sh $i; done