Great foresight for 2008
Thursday December 27th 2007, 10:13h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Linux, Ubuntu

The Economist has a positive foresight for Linux and Ubuntu in particular for 2008:

Bulletproof distributions of Linux from Red Hat and Novell have long been used on back-office servers. Since the verdict against SCO, Linux has swiftly become popular in small businesses and the home.

That’s largely the doing of Gutsy Gibbon, the code-name for the Ubuntu 7.10 from Canonical. Along with distributions such as Linspire, Mint, Xandros, OpenSUSE and gOS, Ubuntu (and its siblings Kubuntu, Edubuntu and Xubuntu) has smoothed most of Linux’s geeky edges while polishing it for the desktop.

No question, Gutsy Gibbon is the sleekest, best integrated and most user-friendly Linux distribution yet. It’s now simpler to set up and configure than Windows. A great deal of work has gone into making the graphics, and especially the fonts, as intuitive and attractive as the Mac’s.

Like other Linux desktop editions, Ubuntu works perfectly well on lowly machines that couldn’t hope to run Windows XP, let alone Vista Home Edition or Apple’s OS-X.

Your correspondent has been happily using Gutsy Gibbon on a ten-year-old desktop with only 128 megabytes of RAM and a tiny 10 gigabyte hard-drive. When Michael Dell, the boss of Dell Computers, runs Ubuntu on one of his home systems, Linux is clearly doing many things right.


Pundits agree: neither Microsoft nor Apple can compete at the new price points being plumbed by companies looking to cut costs. With open-source software maturing fast, Linux, OpenOffice, Firefox, MySQL, Evolution, Pidgin and some 23,000 other Linux applications available for free seem more than ready to fill that gap. By some reckonings, Linux fans will soon outnumber Macintosh addicts. Linus Torvalds should be rightly proud.

I don’t want to know the truth about myself.
Friday December 21st 2007, 14:20h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, Private, Research

The truth about your nature

Today I’m reading the critical and funny article about Google in DAS MAGAZIN, a great Swiss news journal. In the interview with Vint Cerf, the gene-indexing company 23andMe is mentioned since Google sponsors the company. So I google for the keyword and reach the website of this interesting firm. Their business model is to screen your genes and interpret them. They call it the first Personal Genome Service and claim “23andMe’s mission is to be the world’s trusted source of personal genetic information.” Wow, I didn’t know that Google let’s you even search in your genome! I thought this was just a joke on the Economist’s cover writing “Search: me”.

Well, why not looking who’s working at 23andMe. But instead finding some nice photographs I get a list of the employee’s gene statistics: “17% of us have a family history of Multiple Sclerosis. 17% of us have a family history of Multiple Sclerosis. 56% of us have a family history of male pattern baldness. 19% of us have a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease. 67% of us have a family history of cancer.” Hm, interesting, although not very positive.

Nevertheless, I try to order one of those $999 kits you have to spit in and send it to the company. (As the service is only available in the US I don’t do it seriously) But before I can type in the credit card number I need to sign an agreement which also lists some risks of this service. Reading some of them definitively ends my willingness to know about my true nature: First I don’t want to know if I’m likely to get cancer and second I don’t want my insurance company to know it either.

You may learn information about yourself that you do not anticipate. This information may evoke strong emotions and has the potential to alter your life and worldview. You may discover things about yourself that trouble you and that you may not have the ability to control or change (e.g., your father is not genetically your father, surprising facts related to your ancestry, or that someone with your genotype may have a higher than average chance of developing a specific condition or disease). These outcomes could have social, legal, or economic implications.


Genetic data you share with others could be used against your interests. Genetic data you share with others may not seem important today, but future scientific research could increase the significance of information you have already revealed. You should also consider that a motivated party with whom you share your data might be able to use our tools to discover more information about you than you originally realized. In addition, if an employer or insurance company obtained your genetic information through your sharing or by legally binding requirements, they could use your genetic data to deny you employment or coverage. (For information about the proposed Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and some examples of state legislation, click here.).

Open Source Lobbying in the Parliament
Wednesday December 19th 2007, 15:45h
Filed under: FLOSS, Politics

After the Bernese political motion mostly got rejected by the cantonal parliament (see the protocol for the detailed discussion and the open voting), I try to get some attention for Free Software on national level. Today I went into the federal building thanks to the help of Walter Donzé, EVP. He introduced me to several parliamentaries from different parties. I handed them my ‘nightly built’ open source folder for politicians consisting of the following documents (all in German):

0. Cover sheet
1. Political argumentation for support of OSS
2. The Netherlands officially favors open standards and open source software
3. Slides of my presentation on eGovernment and open source software (PDF)
4. Official Swiss eGovernment Strategy (PDF)
5. FOSS study Switzerland 2006
6. OSS catalog 2008 (list of 300 OSS projects and 280 Swiss service providers)
7. Booklet of OpenExpo 2007 Zürich (with article about Solothurn’s migration on Linux
8. Flyer of OSS education event for teachers 2007
9. Presentation of /ch/open and its services
10. A CD of Ubuntu Swiss Remix Gutsy Gibbon

Luckily, I got to talk to the following politicians. Most of them reacted positively, either not yet knowing the term “open source software” or having already sympathized with it:

Ruedi Aeschbacher, EVP
Martin Bäumle, Grünliberale
Thomas Weibel, Grünliberale
Margret Kiener Nellen, SP
Alec von Graffenried, Grüne Freie Liste
Christian Wasserfallen, FDP

Not surprisingly, Pascale Bruderer, former employee of Microsoft, turned down the invitation for a conversation…

Politicians use a lot of laptops

Particularily politicians use a lot of laptops - all on Windows since the parlamentary services only supports Microsoft - at the moment ;)

Update 2008-01-07:The meeting with Walter Donzé resulted in a so-called Interpellation about the federal strategy of Switzerland on open source software. I just heard from the ISB that they’ve received the political foray and have to answer soon.

Update 2008-01-28: So much about networking among the Swiss Federal Administration and Microsoft… Thank God Bill leaves soon. Now I wonder if they invite Richard Stallman next year - and if yes, if he really shows up ;)

Update 2008-02-12: A journalist from the European Commission did a short interview last week and informed about the Interpellation on their IDABC website.

Congratulations, Mrs. Federal Council Widmer-Schlumpf!
Thursday December 13th 2007, 11:52h
Filed under: Politics, Private

Today is a great day for Swiss politics: Mrs. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf accepted her election as Swiss Federal Council. Therefore we cheered happily this morning at 8.10h on the Federal Square.

Update 2007-12-14: “Bei Licht besehen ist auch ein Leithammel nur ein Schaf.”
Ernst Hohenemser, dt. Aphoristiker (, thank you, Marcus!)

Blocher the black sheep

Ugly German Font Error in Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon
Wednesday December 05th 2007, 0:23h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Research

Frankly, sometimes I really hate Ubuntu, and everyone in the world preaching open source!! ;) Seriously, I really hope this severe bug with German Umlaute in some fonts gets fixed soon - by whom it may concern, I don’t care!! - But hold on a second, why do I complain and scream around like Lionel? It’s all open source, so why should I grumble around and don’t fix the bug reports on and launchpad myself? Because I can’t., the Ubuntu display management, the font handling, the language configurations, the Cairo libs, it’s million lines of code, so forget about it if you’re not a daily open source hacker acquainted with the code structure.

Well, that’s the limitation of openness of explicit source code, that’s where tacit knowledge about the programming code, the dependencies between the components, the deep mechanisms of libraries come into play. And that’s why recruiting highly skilled developers is crucial for software firms and THE competitive advantage in our century.

My error

Wuala, my Distributed Hard Disk
Monday December 03rd 2007, 15:34h
Filed under: ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Research

Today I had an interesting lunch with Wuala founder Dominik Grolimund talking about their promising online hard-disk software. Only 2 months at ‘invited alpha status’ this p2p software already has several thousand registered users - also because it’s available for Windows, Mac and even Linux. Dominik explained that particularly the Linux user community is very interesting for him since these are the lead users who heavily test the system, report bugs and provide other helpful feedback - something we found in our current case study on Nokia Internet Tablets as well. And the Wuala team even wants to follow Nokia’s steps and ‘open source’ some of its own code next year - so welcome at OpenExpo 2008 in Bern ;) And BTW, Wuala is hiring particularly open source hackers. So if you’ve time grab the chance and participate in something radically innovative!